ROSELLE, NJ — Three weeks after it was originally scheduled to be contested, the Union County Tournament ice hockey championship game resulted in a 3-0 victory for Summit over Westfield at Warinanco Rink on Saturday.
Summit's triumph — in a game first slated for Jan. 19 but postponed because of the threat of inclement weather — came a year after Westfield had defeated the Hilltoppers in the 2018 Union County Tournament championship game, although Summit then beat Westfield in the McInnis Cup semifinal later that winter.
This winter, however, Summit has had Westfield's number. Saturday's verdict marked the third time Summit (15-5-1) has beaten the Blue Devils (13-5-3) in as many tries this season. Westfield is 13-2-3 against all other opponents. And one of the common denominators in all three matchups this season has been Summit's ability to disrupt Westfield's offensive attack. The Blue Devils managed a total of three goals in three games against the Hilltoppers.
“[Summit] is a solid team. They just play good, quality hockey,” said Westfield head coach Joe Bertucci. “They clog the middle of the ice very well.”
Four minutes into the game, Summit took a 1-0 lead on Jake Puskar's goal with an assist from Spencer Myers. Later in that period, Summit took a penalty, but the Hilltoppers killed off the penalty with Westfield getting just one shot on goal while it had the man advantage.
Westfield was still very much in the game, trailing, 1-0, going into the third period. Both teams had one power play during the scoreless second period. Westfield got shots on goal from Trevor Tanella, Dylan Howard and Thomas Conrod during its second-period power play, but game MVP Grant McCormack — a freshman — stopped all three shots for Summit. Westfield goalie CJ Duffy likewise turned away three power play shots by Summit in the second period.
Perhaps Westfield's best opportunity to tie the game came early in the third period, when John Humiston controlled the puck and attempted a wraparound shot from point blank range that McCormack thwarted with 13:25 left. A few minutes later, Westfield was assessed a penalty, and Summit extended its lead to 2-0 on Charlie Collins' power play goal, which he one-timed from near the blue line with 8:35 left on a play set up by helpers from Puskar and Chris Magovern.
Luc Radice scored an even-strength goal on a rush with 2:56 left for Summit for the final goal.
Less than 48 hours before the puck was dropped in this championship game, Westfield had gone to overtime before defeating Gov. Livingston, 5-4, in the first round of the NJIHL Tournament. By the third period of Saturday's game against Summit, all that hockey may have begun to take its toll on the Blue Devils' legs.
“We had our opportunities, but in the third period we may have been gassed,” Bertucci said. “Thursday was an overtime game, and it was a lot for them emotionally as well as physically.”
Matt Beke, Will Gamba, Humiston, Dan McDonald and Timmy Rosa scored the goals for Westfield in Thursday's victory.
In Saturday's loss, Duffy made 18 saves for Westfield. McCormack stopped 21 shots en route to his being awarded the MVP trophy.