ROSELLE, NJ - The first meeting of the year between the Summit High School Boys Varsity Ice Hockey Team and the counterparts from Governor Livingston on December 15 was a true grinder. A Hilltopper third-period goal in that encounter proved to be the contest's only tally and gave the Maroon and White a 1-0 win.
Entering the Union County Cup semifinal at Warinanco Skating Center, which saw the two teams pitted against each other again just over a month removed from their first battle, many neutral observers prognosticated a reprise of that tilt -- low scoring, dump and chase hockey and yes, another grinder.
That take and those forecasters were, in three words: flat out wrong.
From the opening puck drop to the final horn, Summit dominated the Highlanders, using a combination of speed, puck possession and their roster depth to dictate the pace of the game. The result was 5-0 victory and a berth in the Union County Cup Final, where they will take on Westfield. The rematch of last year's Cup Final, won by Summit, will be played January 20 at Warinanco Skating Center. Face-off is set for 6 p.m.
Versus GL, it was clear early on that Summit was committed to imposing their style of play, as pucks dumped into the Hilltopper end were quickly turned by the Summit defense and -- often times -- converted into stretch passes that found a waiting Summit stick near center-ice or even the Highlander blue line.
The Hilltoppers were coming in waves, frequently setting up shop in the GL end of the ice for virtually entire shifts. This dynamic yielded a plethora or shots at target, but not necessarily on target, which subsequently left some solid chances go begging.
So,, despite getting a goal at the 10:09 mark from sophomore Jake Puskar, assisted by senior captain David Sharpe and freshman Aidan Wiseman, they exited the ice at the end of the first period having totaled just nine shots on goal and likely thinking they should have had more than just a one-goal lead.
The 'more' came in the second period, as senior captain Will Vitton -- notching his 100th career point in the process -- set up sophomore Tom Pryymak to make it 2-0 at 10:42. Then, at the 1:08 mark Sharpe gathered a loose puck immediately after a face-off and shelved the biscuit short-side -- beating GL goaltender Nick Papa from a relatively tight angle -- and it was 3-0.
The result essentially settled, Summit -- now 14-1 on the season -- tacked on two more goals in the third. Puskar got his second of the game off a sweet backdoor feed from Wiseman, and then Wiseman wrapped up a three-point evening by scoring off an assist from sophomore Spencer Myers with just eight ticks left on the scoreboard.
Senior goaltender Wilson Lees stopped everything directed his way as Summit outshot GL 35-16.
"We had our heads in it (the game) from the start," said Summit Head Coach Keith Nixon, while noting that his team was committed to not repeating the type of game played in their previous match-up with the Berkeley Heights school. "We did a better job compared to the first game in not trying to make too many individual plays, Especially starting with the second period, we did a good job of getting pucks in deep and on net."