WEST ORANGE, NJ — Westfield merely needed to wait a week to exact a bit of revenge against one of its top foes.
John Humiston scored twice, including the game winning goal, Anthony Oliveri also tallied twice and Zack Peterson came on in relief to deliver a superb third period in goal as third-seeded Westfield stunned top-seed and defending champion Summit, 6-5, on Saturday in the McInnis Cup championship at Codey Arena in West Orange.
Westfield (15-5-3) skated into the final with a fresh memory of its last meeting with Summit – a 3-0 setback on Feb. 9 in the Union County Tournament championship. After that UCT Cup loss the Blue Devils then dispatched Gov. Livingston, 5-4, in overtime before ousting second-seeded Montclair Kimberley, 5-1, in the semifinal round.
The McInnis Cup is the first for Westfield, which had lost to Summit in its three previous meetings this season. Summit, which held an 11-1-1 record against Westfield going back four seasons, won the McInnis Cup last year with a 3-1 triumph over Livingston, and was seeking its third straight McInnis Cup.
“It feels great,” said Hummiston, “especially being a senior. After losing to Summit the last three times we played them to win this time feels awesome. We had to work hard and win battles in the corners, especially in the third period.”
The third period was scoreless and certainly a more tight-checking stanza, unlike the previous two periods when both teams traded all 11 goals through 30 minutes.
But it was Humiston who delivered the eventual game-winner when he rifled a rising shot to finish off a two-on-one with Trevor Tanella with 41 seconds left in the second to snap a 5-5 game.
“I saw their defenseman go down,” Humiston reflected, “and I saw the top left corner of the net open and I took the shot. We had a little bit of adversity in the third, but we got through it.”
Indeed, because after building a 4-1 lead after the first period Westfield had Summit reeling a bit. But Summit 16-6-1) responded by connecting for four-unanswered goals to erase that deficit and grab a 5-4 lead during the wild second period.
Luc Radice, Tom Pryymak, Jake Puskar and Charlie Collins all scored as Summit rallied to grab a 5-4 lead – Collins’ tally coming with 1:25 remaining for a 5-4 advantage.
But Westfield responded just 11 seconds later as Tanella scored an unassisted goal to make it 5-5 and Humiston delivered the knockout with 41 seconds on the clock.
Westfield starting goalie C.J. Duffy came out late in the second and was replaced by Peterson, who merely turned aside all 17 shots he faced in the third when Summit pushed hard for the equalizer.
Summit starting goalie Nikita Pryymak also came out after the first period and was replaced by Grant McCormack.
“There were a lot of fluky goals and we changed it up to try and get some momentum,” said Westfield coach Joe Bertucci. “We made the change with about three minutes left in the second and then Zack stood on his head in the third. It was a really fluky game that went back and forth. Both Duffy and Pryymak are outstanding goalies and it was a strange game with weird bounces.
“Getting that first goal was huge, too. It meant the world of difference, gave us that confidence and early momentum we needed. It was an unbelievable performance from top to bottom from everybody.”
Bertucci’s club didn’t waste any time grabbing that momentum as Oliveri scored on his team’s first shot, just 27 seconds after the opening face-off; and Westfield had a 1-0 lead.
Summit, which out-shot Westfield 42-21 overall, squared it at 1-1 when Puskar scored at 2:57 on the power play with Collins and Chris Magovern assisting.
After that it was all Westfield in the first.
Nick Forno scored at 3:21 to tie it at 2-2 before Oliveri made a couple of nifty dekes to strike on a shorthanded penalty shot, giving Westfield a 3-1 advantage at 9:42. Then Humiston came through with his first goal to extend it to 4-1 with 59 seconds left in the first.
“Walking into this game we were really calm,” Bertucci said. “We really were calm from top to bottom and that really helped us out today. It was nice getting revenge after losing in the Union County Cup last week. I also think winning against Montclair Kimberley gave us a lot of momentum, too. It’s tough to beat a team four times in a season. Summit beat us 3-0 in the cup final last week but I think we’re pretty evenly matched.”
Westfield & Summit have played against each other so many times it seems they are aware of each other’s every shift and shot.
The third period was scoreless and both teams buttoned it up as much as possible defensively, but the Hilltoppers did everything they could to push the pace and go for the equalizer – and possibly overtime.
Summit blasted 17 shots Peterson’s way while holding Westfield to two shots against McCormack, who replaced Nikita Pryymak to open the second period. Peterson never buckled, especially when Summit pulled McCormack with 2:21 left.
The Hilltoppers fired everything they had in the hectic final minute, creating traffic, screens and rebounds. Peterson wouldn’t budge in the crease.
“It was pretty wild hockey, especially in the second period,” said Summit coach Keith Nixon. “It was up-and-down and we have the firepower to play that way, but when you get 17 shots in the third period you have to find the back of the net once. All we needed to do in the third was tie it up, then if you can win it in regulation or overtime it doesn’t matter. But you have to tie it first. We couldn’t find the back of the net.
“In the first couple of periods we made a few mental mistakes. Westfield is a very good team and you can’t make mistakes against them. We were able to get the puck deep at times but I give Peterson a lot of credit. We had scrambles, shots from the point, deflections and we just couldn’t get anything by him. He did a great job for them.”
Related: Summit Takes Back Union Cup
MCINNIS CUP CHAMPIONS
2018-Summit GAME STORY
2017-Summit GAME STORY
2016-Verona-Glen Ridge GAME STORY
2015-Montclair Kimberley GAME STORY
1999-Toms River South
1996-Toms River South
1995-River Dell and West Essex (co-champions)
Written by Paul Bruno / @PaulBrunoHS
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