ELIZABETH, NJ - Practice makes perfect is the common phrase used for athletes of all kind. So when the Summit ice hockey team practiced this week leading up to Thursday's game with Rumson, a 10-round shootout was thrown into the drills.
Back-and-forth the Hilltoppers went, coaches and all, hallway down the ice trying to practice dekes on the goalies. Each time down, starting goaltender Garrett McGowan denied the opposition.
Little did head coach Keith Nixon know, the Hilltoppers would use a four-round variety to get past Rumson-Fair Haven, 2-1, to advance in the NJSIAA Public B Hockey Tournament.
"When you do it, guys tend to screw around and not take it seriously," Nixon said. "I thought our guys put some nice moves on the kid, basically they beat him clean three times."
Summit's Chris Zanelli, Liam McLaughlin and Mike Badgley each scored in the shoot out to beat the Bull Dogs.
Hilltopper goalie Garrett McGowan saved all three Bulldog opportunities to cap off a night where the junior made 45 saves.
"We practice shoot outs before coming into states and I shutout my team," McGowan said. "I put in work over the summer and I'm just prepared for shootouts. I just know the first move is most likely going to be a fake and I stick with them."
This was not the first experience Summit has had with state tournament shootouts. Back in 2007, the Hilltoppers lost a state game via the shootout. Nixon said the coaching staff didn't want that to happen again.
Summit had their chances to win in regulation and overtime. Badgley gave Summit a 1-0 lead in the second period when he found a loose puck in front of the net and slid it over the goal line with 5:59 to play.
"Garbage goals usually win games," Badgley said. "I just found it right in front hit a backhand. It barely went in, but I'll take a goal. We'll take it."
Four minutes later, Hunter Rotchford put one past McGowan to tie the game at one.
The teams played a scoreless third period, but Summit had multiple opportunities with an open net to take the lead and failed to convert.
In the overtime session, it was Rumson-Fair Haven that appeared to win the game when a scramble in front of McGowan led to the puck finding the net, however the referee blew the play dead prior to the shot due to the net being off its moorings.
Summit had its own chance two minutes later when the puck nestled behind the Bulldog goalie, but no Summit player could knock it in.
In the shootout, After Zanelli and McLaughlin scored on Summit's first two shots, Reilly Flynn was robbed, before Badgley fooled the Rumson net-minder for the clincher.
Badgley said the pressure is not an issue because of football and lacrosse history.
"No one like shootouts. You kind of wish for the continuous OT, but its part of the game. Everyone's got that nerve, then you go down and play it like a game. The pressure, I'm used to it, with [field goal] kicking and everything. I handled it and just do what I usually do and play hockey."
The Hilltoppers will now face Morristown in the next round over the weekend at Mennen Arena. The date and time for the game has not yet been determined.