NEWARK, NJ - For a team that didn't always take the easy route to the gates of glory, they sure made their final step to the throne look pretty easy.
Looking a little tight early and falling behind by goal within the game's first three minutes, the Summit High School Boys Varsity Hockey team settled down shortly thereafter and then got down to business in a serious way, scoring five unanswered goals and rolling to a 6-2 victory over Chatham at the Prudential Center and completing their quest for Back-to-Back NJSIAA Public C State Titles.
Sophomore Greg Spitznagel, who victimized Chatham for two goals in the 2018 Final 364 days ago, struck for a pair of first period goals which set Summit's compass pointing toward 'W' -- as in winner -- and goaltender Nikita Pryymak, as he did in Summit-Chatham v1.0, was rock-solid in goal, stopping 38 shots.
Chatham took the led 2:45 into the contest when Matt Deletto fired from an acute angle to the left of Nikita Pryymak who got his left pad on the low shot but the rebound immediately ricocheted off a Summit skate in front and caromed into the net.
The Cougars, who could not score on Nikita Pryymak in last year's final, seemed energized, carrying the territorial play and racking up shots on target. Despite some persistent Chatham knocking, Nikita Pryymak kept the door shut until the Hilltoppers began to come into the game.
With just over five minutes left in the opening period, juniors Joe Galgano and Tom Pryymak set up Spitznagel who beat Chatham's Zachary Pendergrast and the contest was tied. Less than three minutes later, senior captain Charlie Collins found Spitznagel cutting to the slot. The big man went top shelf, glove side and Summit had the lead. The period came to a close and, despite being outshot 15-9, the Maroon and White were in front, 2-1.
The second period was a fairly even affair until the Cougars started taking make trips to the penalty box. The Summit power play went to work and Tom Pryymak scored from the left lower rim of the face-off circle at the 4:38 mark, assisted by senior Davis Strabley and sophomore Kyle Graham and then, 2:21 later, Collins -- again with the man advantage -- sent a wrist shot from the right point past Pendergrast and The 'Top was on top, 4-1.
If Chatham was stunned at being behind three goal just like that, they were virtually done 1:51 after that when Strabley roared down the right wing and fired a bullet that Pendergrast got his blocker on, but the rebound went straight to out front to senior Remi Vidal who didn't miss from 10 feet away and Summit skated off the ice after two periods leading, 5-1.
Shots on goal in the second period again favored the Cougars, 13-7, for a two periods total of 28-16.
The Hilltoppers had a four-goal lead and Nikita Pryymak between the pipes, which meant they just had to manage the final 15 minutes. Chatham's Michael Sciaretta scored inside the game's final eight minutes, but freshman Chris Magovern got Summit's third power play goal of the night, assisted by junior Spencer Myers with 3:40 left, and it was time for Summit Athletic Director Dan Healy to start dusting off a spot in the Kent Place Boulevard campus' trophy case for the matching piece of hardware that was soon to be forthcoming.
Chatham again had the edge in shots on goal in the third period, 12-8, as they did for the game, 40-24.
Minutes after getting a proper celebratory water bath courtesy of, well, his entire roster, Summit Head Coach Keith Nixon was asked if he was concerned when his team surrendered an early goal to fall behind. "I wasn't worried about it at all," he said, adding, "We've kinda been doing that throughout the year. Some of the boys were a little tight in the first period, but we started moving he puck and getting pucks to the net and, in the second period, we started to play the kind of team game we have been playing the last three games and the goals followed."
Describing the feeling of capturing two straight titles as "awesome," said that the 2018 and 2019 seasons were "like night and day" in comparison to one another while again praising freshman goalie-who-is-not-really-a-goalie Grant McCormack and other masked man, the diminutive brick wall otherwise known as Nikita Pryymak.
"Grant got us into the state tournament and Nikita is a special player."
The now two-time NJSIAA New Jersey Public C Hockey Champions finished their title-winning -- and successful title-defending -- campaign 20-6-1.