Spitznagel in Overtime! Summit Outlasts Manasquan, 3-2, in Public C Semifinal

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MORRIS TOWNSHIP, NJ — Greg Spitznagel has a knack for scoring in the clutch. His reputation as a big-game player looms as large as the skates he fills.

Deadlocked at two in overtime of the NJSIAA Public C state semifinals, Jordan Lowry forced a turnover deep in the defensive zone. Jake Puskar picked up the loose puck sending Spitznagel on a rush the other direction. Breaking the blue line, the junior crossed into the zone against the grain, skating left-to-right, before ripping a shot that found a home sending Summit back to the state finals with a dramatic, 3-2, victory in sudden-death over Manasquan at Mennen Arena Thursday night.

(Photo by Mark Carosiello/HockeyClan)

The game-winning goal 4:01 into overtime sends the top-seeded Hilltoppers back to “The Rock” for the third straight season looking to secure “the hat trick.”

“It’s pretty unbelievable,” Spitznagel said. “A turnover in our D-zone turned to offense. Puskar threw it up to me — skate right, shoot left — I knew it was going to open up for me for a shot in the slot and I got it done.

Summit will take on Ramsey in the Public C state final set for 2 p.m. on Monday at Prudential Center in Newark. With three state titles to its credit, including back-to-back titles in 2018 and 2019, Puskar is among seven seniors looking to go out on top.

“It’s surreal,” Puskar said. “I remember my freshman year we lost to Glen Rock in the state quarterfinals. The locker room was in tears. I never want to feel that feeling again. Now, I’m fortunate to make it back to “The Rock” for the third straight year.”

(Photo by Mark Carosiello/HockeyClan)

Spitznagel put the Hilltoppers on the board first when he burst through the defense to bang home the rebound off of Jake Lowry’s initial shot. The goal, coming just 4:48 into the action seemed to set the tone, but fifth-seeded Manasquan, fresh off the Dowd Cup and a 4-1 triumph over Rumson-Fair Haven in the quarterfinals, would not go quietly.

“Very lucky,” Spitnagel said. “It doesn’t get much better than that — right on the tape — all I had to do was throw my hands to the back of the net. The game plan was to get pucks on net and I think we did a really nice job of that.”

With Drew McLoughlin in the penalty box for tripping early in the second period, Puskar saw an opportunity to step up and make a play.

Looking to set up the power play, Manasquan Juggled the puck between defenders. Puskar read the pass, intercepted it and got loose on a breakaway, streaking in all alone on the Warriors’ goaltender Connal Dougherty before out-waiting the keeper and going five-hole to make it 2-0.

(Photo by Mark Carosiello/HockeyClan)

“They have a lot of skilled guys on that team. I just tried to read their eyes and see where the puck was going,” Puskar said. “I was able to get my stick on it, chip it by him and use my speed to put it in. I was thinking five-hole the whole time. Sticks in passing lanes — that’s what we preach at Summit and I was able to get us there.”

Manasquan would battle back to tie, however, off the stick of Dowd.

The Manasquan junior sniped top shelf from the left faceoff dot 3:38 later to cut the led in half before coming back and scoring again off a feed from Shay Keating and Aidan Wiseman just 4:30 after that to tie the game at 2-2.

The back-to-back goals keyed a stunning turn of events as both teams reset with 3:54 to go in the second period.

“I just decided to take it myself up the left wing and cut back at the last second and got a good shot off at the top left corner,” Dowd said, describing his first goal of the game. “The second goal, I saw the ice and took what they gave me and made a good move to get past their defender and a nice deke on my backhand.”

Still celebrating its game-tying goal, Manasquan nearly took a 3-2 lead mere moments after the drop of the puck but Summit goalie Nikita Pryymak made his best save of the game on Chris Farinacci to keep it tied.

“Farinacci has a great play to almost get us up 3-2 but you don’t always get the bounces you are looking for,” Dowd said. “Great game by both teams. It was fun and competitive which everyone loves.”

(Photo by Mark Carosiello/HockeyClan)

“It stinks to have it end this way but I’m still really proud of the boys,” Manasquan’s Matt Franzoni said. “I’m happy we made it this far. We could have won this game. It could have gone both ways. When we did tie it, I thought we were going to win it. It didn’t go our way, but I’m still proud.”

There was no sense of panic Spitznagel said.

“We didn’t panic. We knew we could come back. We’ve been here before,” Spitznagel said. “We’re very lucky to have really good coaches and really good teammates around me. We just used our experience and got the job done.”

(Photo by Mark Carosiello/HockeyClan)

“We have a lot of proud players in this locker room. A lot of guys who have spent time watching who are now participating,” Summit coach Ian Bell said. “We earned our stars playing a lot of tough games on our schedule to get ready for these type of games. We might be down, but we’re never out.”

Summit improves to 20-3-2. Manasquan-Point Pleasant Beach concludes its best season in program history 14-4-3.

“Very frustrating to be on the losing end, but overall really, really happy,” Manasquan coach Adam Houli said. “I thought we executed. I thought we were the better team in the second and did exactly what we needed to do in the third. We stayed in the game as long as possible and gave ourselves a shot. These kids play at a high level, but at the end of the day that’s hockey. The better team doesn’t always win, the bounces don’t always go your way but that’s what makes this game so great.”

(Photo by Mark Carosiello/HockeyClan)

Pryymak finished with 24 saves for Summit. Dougherty stood tall, steering aside 18 shots for Manasquan.

“I knew coming into the game Dowd was their top guy,” Pryymak said. “He’s a great skater with insane hands. I knew he was someone I had to look out for. After I let in those two goals, the key was to not let them get a third, any momentum, any of that. I was able to stay calm, stay focused and was able to stop ’em.

After making a triumphant return from a torn ACL last season, Pryymak is another senior along with his brother, Tom, looking to go out on top as seniors.

“It’s definitely huge — it would be a great achievement for our whole team,” Pryymak said. “I’m just thankful for every opportunity I get to play.”

Greg Spitznagel scores the game-winner 4:01 into overtime, beating the Manasquan goalie blocker side in the NJSIAA Public C state semfinals at Mennen Arena in Morris Township. (Photo by Mark Carosiello/HockeyClan)

“After they tied it, a lot of guys were deflated but we stuck with it,” Bell said. “Greg Spitznagel doesn’t wear a letter, but he’s still a leader on this team and someone the kids on the team look up to. In overtime, we took care of business. Pucks on net all day long.”

Scoring

1-0 Summit: Greg Spitznagel (Jake Lowry) 10:02-1st

2-0 Summit: Jake Puskar (unassisted) 12:21-2nd SHG

2-1 Manasquan: Anthony Dowd (unassisted) 8:25-2nd PPG

2-2 Manasquan: Anthony Dowd (Shay Keating, Aidan Wiseman) 3:54-2nd

3-2 Summit: Greg Spitznagel (Jake Puskar, Jordan Lowry) 10:59-OT

Shots: 26-21 Manasquan; Nikita Pryymak, SUM, 24 saves; Connal Dougherty, MSQ, 18 saves

(Photo by Mark Carosiello/HockeyClan)


 

 

Written by John Christian Hageny  @JCCSPORTS 

Special to HockeyClan

 

Photos by Mark Carosiello   @SnapthePicture6

 

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