SUMMIT, NJ - Summit High School Boys Varsity Ice Hockey Head Coach Keith Nixon is not one to engage in hyperbole.
So when the veteran coach, who won his 300th game January 26 of this year, says his 2017-18 squad is "one of the deepest we've had," while noting the speed, size and skill found throughout the roster, one knows that the boys from the 07901 are good.
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Preseason-ranked in the Top 20 teams in New Jersey, the Maroon and White have begun the season 5-0, scoring 23 goals while allowing just 4 so far this campaign.
It is early days in the season to be sure, and Nixon readily admits that "we haven't seen this team's ceiling yet." but the pre-season ranking looks to be more than justified, and Summit is -- in one of the dichotomies inherent to the sport played on a frozen surface -- just getting warmed up as the temperature outside the rink goes in the opposite direction.
With three forward lines that Nixon says would likely be number-one lines on most teams, a defense that has come together faster than even the coaching staff hoped, and two standout goaltenders -- most teams would mortgage the Zamboni for one -- the Hilltoppers have the pieces needed to achieve great things and know that the fine margins will likely be the deciding factor in them fulfilling their potential.
"Our players know what it takes to reach a state quarterfinal," said Nixon, referring to their 2016-17 playoff run that ended with a 3-1 defeat to eventual Public B Champ Glen Rock. "They also know what it will take to get beyond that point."
The offensive weaponry consists of four lines: sophomore Tom Pryymak, captain Will Vitton and Aidan Wiseman; Jake Puskar, Charlie Collins and captain David Sharpe; JP Jacobello, Luc Radice, and Greg Spitznagel; and Remi Vidal, Joe Galgano and Davis Strabley.
On defense, assistant captains Greg Moller and Johnny Puskar are joined by Spencer Myers, Olli Passonen, Matt Vigliotta, Jack Mather, Justin Ross and Jack Murphy.
No hockey team -- no matter the offensive armory it possesses -- can find glory without big-time goaltending, and the Hilltoppers have hit the mother lode there. Both senior Wilson Lees and sophomore Nikita Pryymak, each adroit at making the 10-bell save, keep it simple in net. "Both our goalies let the puck hit them and make the saves they are supposed to -- and need to -- make, stay in position don't try to be too flashy, and give the team a calming, high level of confidence," notes Nixon.
And, while Nixon has had talented freshman classes come through the Kent Place Boulevard campus -- including last season -- he is strong in his praise for his Class of 2021 boys, who come to the program prepared to contribute and make a big impact. A significant factor in the overall talent infusion -- Nixon says his roster is strong in all grade levels -- has been the development and success of the Summit Middle School program, which features two teams and fosters a solid pool of players both in terms of number and talent.
As the games are ticked off and Summit continues its run of success the team is, according to Nixon, "Not getting ahead of themselves, keeping it in the present and taking it one game at a time." The coach points to a recent, gritty 1-0 over Governor Livingston as a sign that his Hilltoppers are maturing, "learning and adapting." The Highlanders played a dump-and-chase style that forced Summit to try and go 200-feet with the puck every time, avoiding neutral zone turnovers, and trying to make it a one-goal game.
The Berkeley Heights schools' last objective was met, but it was the Hilltoppers that got the lone, third-period goal in a game that was not, style-wise, to Summit's liking and where they were not at their best but, as Nixon states, "found a way to win."
In the end, Summit's depth may prove to be its ultimate weapon, as Nixon says that -- in addition to being a match-up nightmare for opposing coaches -- the fact that Summit is rolling over four sets of top-end lines and six 'D' has created a tilted ice dynamic in the third period, with the Hilltoppers' ability to stick with the plan and work for 45 minutes the key to unlocking their advantage in resources.
Summit High School Boys Varsity Ice Hockey Team 2017-18 Roster
1 - Nikita Pryymak, Sophomore - Goaltender
2 - Johnny Puskar, Senior - Defense (A)
3 - Aidan Wiseman, Freshman - Forward
4 - Spencer Myers, Sophomore - Defense
5 - Remi Vidal, Junior - Forward
6 - Jack Mather, Junior - Defense
7 - Davis Strabley, Junior - Forward
8 - Jake Puskar, Sophomore - Forward
9 - Charlie Collins, Junior - Forward
10 - Will Vitton, Senior - Forward (C)
11 - Luc Radice, Junior - Forward
12 - JP Jacobello, Senior - Forward
14 - Olli Paasonen, Sophomore - Defense
16 - David Sharpe, Senior - Forward (C)
17 - Tom Pryymak, Sophomore - Forward
20 - Gordon Slater, Senior - Forward
21 - Joe Galgano, Sophomore - Forward
22 - Greg Spitznagel, Freshman - Forward
23 - Drew McLaughlin, Freshman - Forward
25 - Greg Moller, Junior - Defense (A)
26 - Justin Ross, Freshman - Defense
27 - Matt Vigliotta, Freshman - Defense
28 - Sam Goldstein, Senior - Forward
29 - Jack Murphy, Senior - Defense
31 - Wilson Lees, Senior - Goaltender
(C) - denotes captain
(A) - denotes assistant captain
Keith Nixon, Head Coach
Ian Bell, Assistant Coach
Jamie Stack, Assistant Coach
Tom Simmons, Assistant Coach
Ann Flynn, Team Manager
Summit High School Boys Varsity Ice Hockey Team 2017-18 Schedule
Tuesday, Dec 19, 6:30 p.m. v. Westfield - Warinanco Skating Center - Home Game
Friday, Dec 22, 4:10 p.m. v. Livingston - Union Sports Arena - Home Game
Wednesday, Dec 27, Holiday Tournament, 8:30 p.m. v. Mahwah - Ice Vault Arena (Wayne)
Friday, Dec 29,, Holiday Tournament, 7 p.m. v. Chatham - Ice Vault Arena (Wayne)
Saturday, Dec 30, Holiday Tournament, 6:45 p.m. v. St. Joseph Regional - Ice Vault Arena (Wayne)
Wednesday, Jan 3, 7:45 p.m. v. Montclair Kimberly Academy - Clary Anderson - Away Game
Friday, Jan 5, 6 p.m. v. Randolph - Aspen Ice at Randolph - Away Game
Tuesday, Jan 9, 8:30 p.m. v. Montclair - Warinanco Skating Center - Home Game
Friday, Jan 12, 4:10 p.m. v. Morris Knolls - Union Sports Arena - Home Game
Wednesday, Jan 17, TBA, UCIAC Semifinal Round v. TBD - Warinanco Skating Center
Saturday, Jan 20, TBA, UCIAC Final Round v. TBD - Warinanco Skating Center
Tuesday, Jan 23, 6:30 p.m. v. Morristown - Warinanco Skating Center - Home Game
Sunday, Jan 28, 7:15 p.m. v. Madison - Mennen Sports Arena - Away Game
Wednesday, Jan 31, 8:45 p.m. v. Westfield - Warinanco Skating Center - Away Game
Friday, Feb 2, 4:10 p.m. v. Governor Livingston - Union Sports Arena - Home Game
Tuesday, Feb 6, 6 p.m. v. Ridge - Warinanco Skating Center - Home Game
Friday, Feb 9, 4:10 p.m. v. TBD - Union Sports Arena - League Prelim
Monday, Feb 12, 4:40 p.m. v. TBD - Union Sports Arena - League Semi
Tuesday, Feb 13, 6:45 p.m. v. TBD - Warinanco Skating Center - League Semi
Saturday, Feb 17, TBA v. TBD - Cody Arena - League Championship
Tuesday, Feb 20, 6:45 p.m. v. TBD - Warinanco Skating Center - NJSIAA State Tournament, Round 1
Thursday, Feb 22, 4:45 p.m v. TBD - Warinanco Skating Center - NJSIAA State Tournament, Round 2
Friday, Feb 23, 4:10 p.m. v. TBD - Union Sports Arena - NJSIAA State Tournament, Round 3