SUMMIT, NJ - Goals from Tom Pryymak, Charlie Collins and Jake Puskar -- along with a 26-save shutout performance from sophomore goaltender Nikita Pryymak combined to propel the Summit High School Boys Varsity Ice Hockey Team past Westfield, 3-0, and into the McInnis Cup Final.
There, the top-seeded Maroon and White -- now 19-2-2 -- will face number-two seeded Livingston on February 16 at the Richard J. Codey Ice Arena. Face-off is set for 5 p.m. The McInnis Cup Final will be the teams' third meeting of the season, with Summit winning the first two games -- both played last December -- by scores of 4-1 and 3-0, respectively.
Taking the ice against the Blue Devils for the fourth time this season, Summit brought big emotion out of the locker room in the first period -- perhaps a bit too big. Making some uncharacteristic mistakes in their own end and in the neutral zone -- a dynamic that Summit Head Coach would later observe was a byproduct of his team being overly amped -- Westfield enjoyed significant time in the Hilltopper zone. Nikita Pryymak had to be razor sharp, at one point being forced to make a 10-bell glove stop on a point-blank shot that resulted from a Summit turnover in front of their own net while the Hilltoppers were on the Power Play.
Later on the same Power Play, the Summit would open the scoring. Getting pucks and bodies to the net, Tom Pryymak had Summit's third whack at the biscuit from just outside the crease and the sophomore shoveled the puck past Westfield's CJ Duffy to make in 1-0 at the 5:11 mark. Senior captain Will Vitton and junior Davis Strabley earned assists on the goal.
The tally seemed to both energize and stabilize the Hilltoppers, who went on to pretty much dominate the next 20 minutes of game action. Shots on goal at the end of the first period favored Summit, 13-12.
The Hilltoppers scattered play for the majority opening 15 minutes was replaced by in the second period by a masterclass example of a team taking control of the game by taking what the game gives a them.
Summit was strong on the forecheck and airtight in the neutral zone, and the Blue Devils had trouble even reaching the Hilltopper blue line. The Boys from the 07901 were grinding away in the Westfield end and, when the puck left that zone, Summit collected it, dumped it back deep into Blue Devil ice, and went right back to work.
Summit pelted Duffy for most of the middle frame but it took nearly the entire period to double the advantage. Working hard below the hashmarks, Summit's forecheck flushed the puck out to the low rim of the right face-off circle and right to an onrushing Collins. The junior decided to eschew finesse and just let 'er rip with a slapper that beat Duffy low blocker. Strabley and senior captain David Sharpe assisted on the goal at the 1:01 mark.
Illustrating how much they bossed the period, Summit outshot Westfield 15-3 during the stanza.
The third period, for Summit, was about controlling the play and finishing the job, and that task became simpler at the 6:13 mark when sophomore Puskar took a cross-ice pass from junior alternate captain Greg Moller and fired a one-timer past Duffy from the right face-off circle.
Play got bit chippy over the last several minutes and Summit took a couple of penalties, but Nikita Pryymak calmly kept the door shut and Summit earned a fairly straightforward victory. The Blue Devils outshot Summit 11-8 in the final period but, for the game, Summit 'won' that stat, 36-26.
"We were ready to play tonight, and the boys came out really fired up," said Nixon. "We needed to calm down and reset things, and we did that in between the first and second periods. Once we settled down, we played the game we needed to play to grind out the win."
Summit next faces Livingston in the McInnis Cup Final February 16 at the Richard J. Codey Arena at South Mountain, which is located at 560 Northfield Avenue.