UNION, NJ - Will Vitton's first-period goal -- the 50th of the senior captain's Hilltopper career -- proved to be the game-winner, and the Summit High School Boys Varsity Ice Hockey Team got a 27-save, shutout performance from sophomore goaltender Nikita Pryymak to defeat Morris Knolls, 3-0, at the Union Ice Arena.
The win was the 13th of the year against just one loss for the Maroon and White who, earlier in the day, received the number-one seed and a first-round bye in the upcoming Union County Cup Tournament. Summit, currently ranked 13th in the state, will open UCC play January 17 at the Warinanco Skating Center against the winner of the fourth-seeded Cranford versus fifth-seeded Governor Livingston match-up.
Attesting to Summit's quality, their win against the Golden Eagles -- a quality team that, less than a month ago, tied unbeaten Randolph -- felt relatively routine, with the Hilltoppers dominating puck possession and shots on goal over the first two-plus periods of play. The final shots on goal tabulation of 32-27 in favor of Summit actually flattered Morris Knolls as, early in the third period, Summit held a 25-10 edge.
After having a the puck in the Golden Eagles' zone for big chunks of the first period but not finding any reward, Summit broke through at the 3:09 mark of the first period when the Hilltoppers number-one line of Vitton, Tom Pryymak and Greg Spitznagel went to work in the Morris Knolls end. Pryymak found Vitton on the left side and he was able to beat Morris Knolls' Ty Franchi from close range for his Golden Goal and a 1-0 Summit lead.
After more puck possession and pressure, the Hilltoppers doubled their lead at 12:04 of the second period when Spitznagel, skating below the right face-off rim, centered the puck looking for Pryymak in front only to see the biscuit tipped by a Golden Eagle defenseman past Franchi. As the last Summit player to touch the puck, Spitznagel got credit for the goal, and the Hilltoppers led 2-0.
Nikita Pryymak who, for protracted stretches of the first two periods served as an interactive spectator, was forced to be much more more than that after Spitznagel's goal when he butterflied to stone a partial Morris Knolls breakaway. The Golden Eagles' Jake DiLoreto got a step on his defender and sliced in on goal from the right side on his off-wing. Being a left-hander, DiLoreto had more net to shoot at, but the sophomore goaltender was able to blunt the attempt, a big play that won't show up in the box score.
Any morsel of suspense that there was in the outcome was swallowed up when junior Luc Radice skated into the Golden Eagles zone at 10:29 of the third period, dropped his shoulder then shifted further to left into the high slot on his forehand before ripping a wrister that beat Franchi high glove from 25 feet.
The 3-0 lead saw Summit sit back a bit and Morris Knolls was able to fire the majority of their 17 third-period shots on target over the final seven minutes. Pryymak and his defense kept the door shut, however, and Summit could look ahead to defending their UCC crown.