SUMMIT, NJ - What if Summit met Chatham in boys varsity lacrosse and a local version of the National Hockey League's Winter Classic broke out?
Given conditions that the NHL would love to have for its annual outdoor game -- intermittent flurries and raw, cold temperatures -- it is only appropriate the match-up yielded a hockey game-like score. Fortunately for the Hilltoppers, they were on the right side of 5-0 whitewashing of Chatham at Cougar Field.
The weather actually worsened in the latter stages of the second half and, as snowflakes fell and Mother Nature asserted herself, so did Summit, finally burying opportunities to ease away in a game they statistically dominated, but which remained close until late.
As was the case throughout the contest, Summit dominated possession in the first quarter but could not score. Long periods in the Chatham end of the field yielded a few chances, most of which were not on target or just didn't click at the vital time. For its part, Chatham wasn't generating much, a pattern which continued through the second quarter.
The Hilltoppers frustration at having so much of the ball but not scoring led to a scrappy period of play in the second frame, as passes were forced and turnovers developed. As in the opening quarter, Jay Winchell wasn't really tested as Summit's defense was yielding no room when the Cougars did have the ball. Halftime arrived and brought an unusual 0-0 score line.
Summit came out strong in the third, executing with improved precision, and it finally paid off at the 6:46 mark when Evan Kulpan, moving from the right side of the field, dodged to his right, and then drove hard left and fired a low shot that gave the Hilltoppers a 1-0 lead.
Winchell made a huge save moments later when he went low to his right to rob a point blank opportunity, the save exemplifying one of those defining moments in close games which play a massive role in deciding the outcome.
Summit made it 2-0 at 9:57 on a highlight reel goal from John Cordrey. Cradling behind the Cougars goal, a stick check from a Chatham defender dislodged the ball. A scrum ensued, with Cordrey winning the loose ball, then picking it up and wheeling out from behind the goal and scoring while launching himself airborne across the face of the cage.
Kulpan got his second of the game with 2:03 to go to make it 3-0, coming just after Chatham penalties expired as the Cougars began to chase the game. Late goals by Corey McManus and Riley Flynn were icing on the cake, as Summit improved to 2-1 on the season with a comprehensive win against top competition.
"I thought the guys did a really good job spreading the field today," said Summit Head Coach Jim Davidson. "We got frustrated and sloppy in the second quarter, and we didn't finish our chances, but we regrouped at halftime. I thought we rode their clear well, and Jay came up with some big saves at key times."
When asked the last time one of his teams shut out an opponent, the longtime coach said he could not remember. Given the game's outcome, the opponent, and the conditions it was played in, this one will be hard to forget.
Next Game / Next Home Game: April 2 - West Essex, 4:30 p.m.