WEST SPRINGFIELD – History is on their side.
When No. 2 Westfield toppled top-seeded Longmeadow in the Division 2 West Sectional boys’ ice hockey championship 4-2 last Thursday night at the Olympia, the Bombers continued to cement their place in Western Mass sports history.
With the win over Longmeadow, Westfield secured it fourth title in five years.
“Every time it happens it trumps the other one because it’s present, it’s current, but they’re all incredible,” said Westfield senior Sean Moorhouse, one of four different players to record a goal in the Western Mass title game. “The feeling doesn’t change, and it doesn’t get any less any time.”
It was Westfield’s 10th championship since 2002, and the fifth time the Bombers successfully defended a title in 15 years.
Westfield went 15-5 during the 2016-17 regular season before holding off Minnechaug to win in the D3 semifinals, 4-3. The Bombers then skated past the Longmeadow Lancers in the finals to set up a state semifinal against Central Mass champ, Shrewsbury (21-0-1).
As a No. 1 seed, Shrewsbury advanced through the Central Mass bracket with a thrilling 2-1 double overtime victory over fourth-seeded Marlboro and a 4-1 win over second-seeded Wachusett.
Westfield and Shrewsbury will meet in a state semifinal Wed., March 15 at the MassMutual Center in Springfield at 5:45 p.m. The winner will advance to Sunday’s final at the TD Garden in Boston.
Shrewsbury features a trio of high scorers and two fast lines. Westfield does not have a specific go-to scorer, but rather relies on a collection of blue-collar workers who fight for every goal.
“We preach no superstars on this team – we’re a family; we’re a team,” Moorhouse said. “Everybody has a role to play. If someone has got to step up and score a goal, if someone has to step up and block a shot, make a pass, make a save, whatever it is, everyone is going to do whatever they have to do to fill a void. Everyone understands when their role is, where their role is and when to do it, so anybody can score and we’re just as happy. It’s no surprise to us when someone new scores.”
Westfield coach C.B. “Moose” Matthews voiced his optimism following a last-minute, late-night Monday practice session. The team was forced to plan an “off” day Tuesday with a blizzard expected to overtake the entire state.
“It’s going to be a hard-fought game … that comes down to the wire,” coach Matthews said. “We’re going to need a little bit of luck, a bounce of the puck, and maybe we will bring home a ‘W’.”