MORRISTOWN, NJ - There will not be a repeat champion in the NJSIAA Public B tournament. The Summit Hilltoppers, who beat Tenafly 2-1 in last year's championship game, were eliminated from the tournament by Morristown, 1-0, in Sunday's state quarterfinal at Mennen Arena.
Morristown's Cam Szary deflected a shot passed Summit net minder Garrett McGowan with 6:28 to play in the third period to beat the reigning champion Hilltoppers.
"Garrett played so well tonight. He was tremendous," Summit head coach Keith Nixon said. "We've done this all season. We've been outshot all season. You try to be opportunistic. He's kept us in games. Its tough to get one with a bounce like that."
Summit never settled into the game offensively, often times playing back on defense to keep against the Colonial rush. When they did break out with a scoring chance, Morristown's Shane Brown was there to stave off any would-be goals.
"Its two of the best goalies in the state going head-to-head today," Nixon said. "Games like this its usually somebody gets a break, its a fluke, something like that. That's what happened today. They got the break, we didn't."
Summit did have a few chances to break the tie early in the third period, when lone senior Michael Badgley put a shot on net from the left side, but the puck trickled through the crease untouched. Less than two minutes later, Szary tipped in a shot from the right circle to score the game's only goal.
"They got a garbage goal, it was a deflection and got lucky," Badgley said. "It was even. I think there was one penalty the whole game. It was hard fought on both sides. They moved the puck well. we figured out how to counter it and then they got a lucky goal towards the end of the game. We definitely left it all on the ice the whole team."
Badgley is the lone senior that the Hilltoppers will graduate in June. Summit's entire first line of Union County Co-Player of the Year Liam McLaughlin, First-Team All-County Reilly Flynn, and Second-Team All-County Reilly Flynn will all return next season, along with McGowan between the pipes.
They will join a strong incoming-freshman class that Nixon thinks will put Summit back on top next season.
"They're not going to forget this," Nixon said. "15 of these guys are back next year and they're not going to forget this. they're going to work harder. They're going to get bigger, stronger and faster. We're going to be in the mix again next year for sure."
As for Badgley, he packed up his hockey gear for the final time in his career. The senior, three-sport athlete, will head off to the University of Miami, where he will compete to be the Hurricane's starting field goal kicker.
The long-serving captain of the Hilltoppers, Badgley was satisfied with the team's performance and that everyone gave it there all.
"Any loss is tough," he said. "The team, we're confident that we left everything out there; we had no regrets. We worked hard all game, but we played hard."