Rivalry game takes center stage, again

WESTFIELD – Bruins-Canadiens. Celtics-Lakers. Red Sox-Yankees. The Patriots vs. the entire NFL.
Rivalries between teams have defined sports moments throughout eternity, especially in Boston and all of New England.
In Western Massachusetts high school boys ice hockey, the penultimate matchup over the last two decades has been Westfield-Longmeadow. On Thursday night, the two teams will renew their rivalry in the West Division 3 finals.
The three-time defending West D3 champion Westfield Bombers, the tournament’s No. 3 seed, will collide with the top-seeded Longmeadow Lancers at the Olympia Ice Center in West Springfield at 8:30 p.m.
The two teams will meet for the fourth straight time.
While the two teams have combined for 16 of the last 17 championship titles in Division 3, Westfield has won five of the last six championship and 13 of the last 17.

Westfield and Longmeadow battle during the 2017-18 West Division 3 boys ice hockey finals at the Olympia in West Springfield. The three-time defending champion Bombers and top-seeded Lancers will renew their rivalry Thursday night in the championship. (Staff file photo)

“They put a good program together,” Westfield head coach C.B. “Moose” Matthews said of the opposition. “(Longmeadow head coach) Jim Joyce is actually a good friend of mine. Win or lose each way … it’s going to be another barnburner.”
No. 3 Westfield enters the championship game, having completed somewhat of a rollercoaster regular season, compiling a record of 11-7-2, but followed that up with a dramatic double overtime semifinals victory over second-seeded Minnechaug 5-4.
Longmeadow, on the other hand, earned the top seed in Division 3 with a 13-5-2 record. The Lancers swept the regular season series with the Bombers by the scores of 1-0 and 4-1.
“The road gets harder and longer,” coach Matthews said. “This year, looking at the teams, we have to work a little harder. We have to get a lot out of a few of (our players). We’re working hard to get the “W’s.”
The odds might seem stacked against Westfield winning a fourth consecutive championship based solely on the results of the regular season, but the Bombers also lost the season series with Longmeadow in 2017-18 before stunning the Lancers 2-1 in the championship game.
“They’re a little stronger; they have a little more depth; and they have one line that can score,” coach Matthews said in describing Longmeadow. “We have to have our top ‘D’ to slow them down. The Bombers are working hard. The last few games, we’ve had trouble finishing, but that’s what we’ve been working on the last week. Our goaltending is good. He’s a keeper.”
Senior C.J. Czarnecki has stood tall between the pipes for Westfield.
“We have to dig in, get a little deeper,” Matthew said. “We have to play at least 100 percent better because Longmeadow’s a good team. …We have to put it together, come out and play a game where we make very few mistakes and maybe good things will happen.”
Said Matthews: “The (kids) said they’re ready so we’re ready to go.”
Before the puck drops Thursday night, there will be a moment of silence for longtime Bombers’ fan Leonard Melanson, who passed away Feb. 26 at the age of 85.

To Top