WEST SPRINGFIELD – After the final whistle sounded after the Westfield No. 4 men’s hockey team won 10-1 over Agawam at the Olympia Ice Center on Saturday afternoon, the seniors of each club met one last time near the center of the ice rink.
“It was unfortunate to be off the ice for the last time in my high school career,” Bombers goaltender CJ Czarnecki said. “It’s a weird feeling because it’s my life. I play hockey five days a week all summer, and now it’s not.
Westfield coach Dave Pelletier echoed those same thoughts.
“If you don’t play this game with a smile and enjoy it, it’s not worth it,” he said. “I think all of our guys did this because they are smiling and laughing and cheering on each other. I even saw them drop by to say hello and hug the players from the other team.
“And that’s what it is about because sportsmanship and camaraderie is what makes this sport special.”
Joseph Taupier recorded a high four points (three goals, one assist) to help the Bombers end their regular season with a 4-4-3 record.
Saturday also marked the final game of the Westfield senior eight with Jason Rokosz, Alexander Maggipinto, Aidan Fitzgerald, Michael Antonellis, Garrett Bacon, Sean Rowbotham, Taupier and Czarnecki.
“With all of the restrictions that came with the start of this season that didn’t include any parent or classmate who could watch these guys, it was tough,” said Pelletier. “Nonetheless, I asked my upper class students to lead the team, to show them what the game is meant to be and to enjoy every moment because the end is near and always comes quickly.
“As far as our opponent is concerned, the Brownies are young and well trained. I can’t wait to play them next year because we expect them to be a lot faster and stronger.
Despite a first-half shot from senior captain Dean Kadonaga, Agawam ultimately went 0-8 this season.
“It’s the same story with this team all year,” said Brownies coach Todd Rowley. “We’ve come short in every game so far, but this team isn’t giving up. It doesn’t matter if it’s a 1-1 or 10-1 game; these guys keep playing.
“We have a young team and we have a lot of hope for the next two years.”
After five minutes of scoreless opening, Antonellis and Taupier forced a free puck and saw the ice open. After a brief back-and-forth between the two, Taupier beat his lone defender along the boards and punched Brownie goalie Jacob Croteau’s right shoulder. Moments later, Daniel Bennett quickly doubled the Bombers’ lead to 2-0 behind his first goal of the winter with 7:52 left in the first.
After scoring five combined goals in their last three games, Pelletier was encouraged by his team’s urgency.
“A quick start was what we were looking for,” he said. “It also meant more because we were running lines made up mostly of seniors. Before the game, we reminded them that this was their last hurray.
“So bring the speed and bring it to the net – they did it quickly. “
With Westfield still maintaining control late in the frame, Brandon Shuman tried to make it a three-possession game to no avail as Croteau stopped him with a crucial dive stoppage. Agawam quickly won his first power play due to a pending appeal, as Kadonaga halved the Brownies’ deficit with a shooter who sped past Rowbotham for more than 11 minutes.
“It was a big change of momentum for us,” Kadonaga said of his first goal of the year. “We worked hard to get that power play, and I set my position on point and landed a shot that went despite (Rowbotham) making the first save.
“Going forward it gave us a good motivation boost because sometimes the pressure can get to us. I think we did what we could there so it’s a good feeling. for the next time.
With backup goaltender Brandon Prior taking over between the posts for Croteau during the second, Shuman kept him alert with a snipe from the face-off circle that was ultimately denied. However, rebounder Kevin Hosmer made it 5-1 with 8:01 left in the second.
Aidan Fitzgerald also led the Bombers with two runs (one goal, two assists), while Shuman had three assists. Antonellis, for his part, scored a goal and an assist.
Despite the loss, Agawam hopes to send his four Kannon Grover students, Stephen Steinbock, Andrew Grasso and Kadonaga in style against Southwick on Sunday, February 28, with a scheduled start at 1:30 p.m. from Ameilia Park.
“The game plan doesn’t change from day to day in who we play,” Rowley said. “We’re a hard-working team and we’re going to work hard tomorrow, whether we play Southwick, Westfield or Longmeadow. It doesn’t matter who it is because it will be the same message.
“However, I hope we can give these seniors a little something extra to give them a good start and something to remember. Maybe we can put something in the win column before the end of the season.