WESTFIELD – An epic rivalry has been renewed.
Before we can turn the page from winter, and spring ahead to the third and final sports season of the high school year, the stage is set for yet another chapter in the saga of the Westfield and Longmeadow boys’ ice hockey teams.
A surprising shorthanded goal from Westfield’s Sean Moorhouse on a Minnechaug 5-on-3 power play opened an adventurous Division 3 West Sectional semifinal between the second-seeded Bombers (16-5) and No. 3 Falcons; a second-period, breakaway goal from sophomore Scotty Bussell ended it.
Key goals from Max Maggipinto and John Danahey secured another finals trip for the defending Division 3 Western Massachusetts champion Westfield Bombers, who rallied from a 2-1 deficit last Thursday.
“We knew it was going to be a tough one,” said Westfield coach C.B. “Moose” Matthews, whose team split the regular season series against Minnechaug, 1-1. “We worked hard. The kids didn’t quit. That was the secret. We knew getting by them would be a tough assignment.”
In this postseason’s other semifinal game, top-seeded Longmeadow easily skated past No. 4 East Longmeadow, 5-1. Five different players scored for the Lancers. Jack Barron and Spencer Robbins each earned three assists.
With the victory, Longmeadow (17-3-1) erased any doubts still lingering after a two-game skid ended their regular season. Westfield handed the Lancers one of those late-season defeats.
The two teams split their regular season matchups.
“Longmeadow has two to three players that can put the puck in the net,” coach Matthews said. “Ours are all spread out. …We’re blue collar workers who have to work hard to get our goals.”
What can fans expect when Westfield and Longmeadow meet for the third time this season? If history is any indication, a classic showdown Thursday night at the Olympia Ice Center in West Springfield, beginning at 8:30.
This will be the 12th time in 16 years that Westfield and Longmeadow will meet in the D3 championship game. Together, they have produced 14 of the last 15 champions with Westfield winning nine and Longmeadow, five.
“It’s unbelievable,” coach Matthews said of the two teams’ dominance. “It’s going to be a close game. Both teams want it.”
“We have to counter somehow,” he added. “We’re going to try and bring (a title) home for Westfield and the Bombers. “We’re going to try and give it our best shot.”
Like prized heavyweight fighters, Westfield and Longmeadow have exchanged knockout blows over the course of the past decade.
Last year, Westfield, then a four seed, knocked off the top-ranked Longmeadow Lancers in double overtime, 3-2, in the semifinals. It took the Bombers two extra periods to get by the Minnechaug Falcons in the championship game by the exact same score.
In the 2013-14 season, Westfield topped Longmeadow in the semifinals 4-3 in triple overtime en route to their 10th championship title. The Lancers won the previous year’s finals matchup between the two teams, 5-3.
The two seasons before also featured Westfield-Longmeadow showdowns with the Bombers winning a 2-1 overtime thriller in 2011. The Lancers won the previous final, 4-1.
In 2008, Westfield clipped Longmeadow, 2-1. Two years before that, the Lancers shut out the Bombers, 4-0. A year before that, LHS edged WHS, 2-1.
In 2004, Westfield tipped Longmeadow in two overtimes, 3-2. In 2003 and 2002, the Bombers clipped the Lancers by the exact same score of 3-2 when it all began.
It is obviously a tournament rich with history featuring two storied programs. As the two teams turn the page on the postseason’s next chapter, who will have the right stuff?
“We have to counter somehow,” Matthews said. “We’re going to try and bring (a title) home for Westfield and the Bombers. “We’re going to try and give it our best shot.”
Follow up-to-the-minute coverage of Thursday night’s championship game on our Facebook Page, and check out our story and photos after the final buzzer sounds.