ELIZABETH, N.J. - The Summit hockey team thought Wednesday's game was over when Westfield took a 4-2 lead with three minutes to play.
The team looked depressed and the student section filed out for what most thought we be an impossible comeback. However, the impossible happened at Warinanco Skating Center, as the Hilltoppers scored three goals in the final minute to stun Westfield 5-4 and take control of the Union County Hockey League.
"I thought after they scored the fourth goal that we kind of collapsed for a minute, then all of a sudden we got the energy," Summit head coach Keith Nixon said. "We got the third goal which gave us the chance to pull the goalie. Honestly, I've never seen a team score three goals in the last minute to win a game."
Westfield's Chris Kattak scored what most thought would be the game-clincher for the Blue Devils.
While the Westfield bench celebrated the last three minutes, Summit got to work.
As the final minute began to tick down, Summit's James Strabley took a shot from top of the right circle that went over the goalie's shoulder to bring the Hilltoppers within one goal.
With Summit's goalie pulled, the Hilltoppers attacked the zone. After a shot from the right side went off the goalie, Summit senior captain Mike Badgley found the loose puck and shot it into an open net to tie with 27.3 seconds on the clock.
The Hilltoppers weren't done.
Once the puck dropped after their game-tying goal, sophomore Chris Zanelli fought for possession in the right corner. Once he controlled the puck, he flung it towards the goal. While Westfield's goalie slowed the puck down, once the cylinder in the ice, its squirted through his legs and over the goal line for an improbable game-winning goal with 1.3 seconds to play.
"I'm in shock still to be honest," Zanelli said. "I just tried to throw it in front. I honestly didn't think it had much of a shot of going in. I just tried to make something happen, just a lot of luck that it went in."
While luck might have been on Summit's side, Nixon said it was because of Badgley that the team stayed focused in the third period and was able to tie and win the game.
"I was ready to go in and talk to the boys at the intermission in the second period, but Mike was up and firing the guys up," Nixon said. "To have him out there, his speed, the kid's a winner. Having him jump out there and score the game tying goal is huge but that's the type of kid he is. It doesn't look pretty at times, but he gets the job done."
Early in the game, the Hilloppers led 2-0 before allowing four unanswered goals.
Badgley put Summit on the board in the first period when his shot from the point hit off the goalie's shoulder and into the back of the net.
21 seconds later, Zanelli scored off a Westfield defensive zone turnover to put the Hilltoppers on top 2-0 early.
Westfield's Dane Huber led the comeback for the Blue Devils. He tied the game with two minutes to play in the second period, then gave Westfield the lead when he scored from his back less than four minutes into the fourth period.
With the win, Summit and Westfield are now tied for first place in Union County.