UNION — “The River Road Rivalry” between Summit and Chatham was showcased in contentious fashion at times on Friday.
Charlie Collins finished with two goals and an assist, Greg Spitznagel scored once and picked up two assists and Grant McCormack came through with 28 saves as Summit, No. 10 in the Hockey Night In Boston New Jersey Top 10, forged a 5-1 victory over Chatham in a rematch of the 2018 NJSIAA Public C State Finals at Union Sports Arena.
Summit, which defeated Chatham in all three meetings last season, improved to 7-1 in a contest that concluded with both clubs combining for 14 minor penalties.
The final outcome wasn’t quite indicative of the overall play as both teams combined to throw 64 shots on goal in a game that had an edge, a hard-nosed combative bite to it.
“This was probably a pretty physical game,” said Collins, a senior who scored both his goals in the opening period when Summit built a 2-0 advantage. “It definitely had an edge to it and both teams are kind of familiar with each other because we’re so close and played each other three times last year. They tried to wear us down but you have to try and stay disciplined. We definitely have a rivalry with Chatham.”
Chatham (5-5) produced the better possession stats in the first period and out-shot Summit, 13-6. The Morris County school had a short five-on-three advantage and then another power play but was unable to strike.
Collins gave Summit a 1-0 lead with an unassisted goal with 10:47 left in the first before extending the lead to 2-0 when he connected from the top of the left circle with 6:35 on the clock off an assist from Spitznagel.
It was during those opening 15 minutes when McCormack, a freshman, was a difference-maker for Summit.
“We got those two goals but we got out-shot,” said Summit coach Keith Nixon. “I thought this game could have gone the other way real easy in the first period if he didn’t stand tall in there. They like to get guys in front and get a lot of pucks to the net, but I thought Grant did a really good job of controlling pucks. We got a little smarter as the game went on as far as what we were doing the and the decisions we were making.”
As far as McCormack being tested, that was certainly on the pregame “To Do List” for Chatham. The Cougars wanted to barrage the young goalie from every angle on the ice.
“That was the game plan,” said Chatham coach Brendon Herr. “We knew their starting goalie from last year (Nikita Pryymak) was out and we were trying to put as many pucks on net as we could. After two periods we had out-shot them by a two-to-one margin. For us, it was just finding a way to get pucks through and force more traffic in front. It was a chippy 45 minutes. Two rival schools and two neighboring towns playing hard. Overall I thought the effort was good from us.”
McCormack, now 7-1 filling in for the injured Pryymak in his varsity debut campaign, was caught off guard by the initial Chatham first period barrage.
“I wasn’t really ready for that,” said McCormack. “I usually see about half the amount of shots I did today. It was a lot more shots than I’ve seen so far. I was just trying to keep it simple and focus on seeing and stopping the puck, and looking around the screens and traffic.”
The effort was even better in the second as Chatham controlled the pace at times, transitioning several two-on-ones that were thwarted by McCormack – who made saves on close-in shots by Matt Keane and Jack Deletto.
With Summit still holding the 2-0 lead, Chatham was awarded a power play with 3:06 left in the second and this would prove a key turning point in the contest. McCormack turned aside attempts from Sordillo and Dan Mahoney as Summit was able to kill off the penalty. Thirteen seconds later – with :53 left on the second period clock – Spitznagel buried a pass from Tom Pryymak to extend Summit’s advantage to 3-0.
“Anytime you can get a three-goal lead it’s great,” said Nixon. “Three goals is a long way to come back. You can get into a rhythm more and you can start playing smarter and just getting pucks deep. It was a solid win over a good club like Chatham. We’re headed in the right direction.”
Jake Puskar scored before Tom Pryymak made it 5-0 with a power play goal for Summit with 4:33 left in the third.
McCormack’s hopes for a shutout were dashed when Sordillo scored a power play goal off assists from Deletto and Curry with 1:12 left.
Summit, outshot 22-12 after two periods, came out in the third and fired 23 shots on the Chatham net. Overall, Summit wound up with a 35-29 shot advantage.
“We have to continue to work and get better,” said Collins, who has 13 points now on eight goals and five assists. “It was a good win and gives us momentum into Christmas. Now we have to be ready for the Ice Vault Classic next week.”
Written by Paul Bruno / @PaulBrunoHS
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