ROSELLE — As the players circled, their body heat only made the fog more dense. And as the game wore on, the fog only got deeper and deeper levying a heavy layer of mist that rose as high as the glass along the boards. The players could barely see the puck right in front of their face and didn’t know when to change lines let alone come out of the box after a penalty. From the stands, you could forget about following the play.
Despite the atypical conditions at the open-ended rink, Summit found a way to erase a one-goal deficit and storm back with two goals in the third en route to a 4-2 victory over Indian Hills inside a humid Warinanco Sports Complex in Roselle.
“Everything was hard to see, even from the bench you could only see halfway down the ice it was so foggy,” Summit senior Johnny Puskar said. “On top of that, it was a pretty physical game. A lot of fun, though.”
Luc Radice broke the ice with an unassisted goal on a broken play 9:29 into the action but Indian Hills found the back of the net with 36.4 seconds left in the first on a goal from Thomas Moskal before Rory Maurer gave his team the lead 3:16 into the second as the North Jersey school took a 2-1 advantage.
Greg Spitznagel finished a play started by Radice and David Sharpe to tie the score at 2-2 with 2:21 to go in the middle frame before Puskar took the lead back for Summit with his game-winning goal with 6:51 remaining in regulation in a seesaw battle that saw three different lead changes.
“David Sharpe made a nice pass to my defensive partner Spencer Myers and I called for it,” Puskar said. “He made another nice pass across the top and the shot went top-left corner. Pretty good goal I think.”
Aiden Wiseman was restricted on a breakaway and awarded a penalty shot which the freshman converted with 4:31 left to cap the scoring for Summit, which improves to 2-0.
“I had a breakaway on the penalty kill. I was going to score but the guy tripped me and I was given a penalty shot,” Wiseman, who made his high school debut in the game, said. “I went in and faked the shot left and went to the far right post and scored clean. It was a lot of fun. I enjoyed my teammates and all the support my first game.”
After weathering a difficult first few minutes of the opening stanza, Indian Hills settled in and even held the lead for most of the second period before faltering down the line. The Oakland school from Bergen County is 1-2-1 after going 16-6-2 and advancing all the way to the Public B Sweet-16 last season.
“It was crazy. You couldn’t even see the puck on your skates or whose jersey was whose,” Indian Hills’ sophomore Thomas Moskal said. “Nothing.”
“I took a shot, it went wide but the puck came right back to me and I just jammed it in,” Moskal described his goal that tied the game at 1-1 in the final seconds of the first. “We just have to get pucks deep and work down low and can’t give up. Those quality shots won’t happen on their own, we need to get them ourselves.”
Indian Hills’ centerman Jake Atkinson took a lot of face-offs and was a first-hand witness how difficult it was to maintain possession.
“There was not much to see,” Atkinson said. “Mainly, I was just trying to win the draw forward to my winger so he could rush the puck up and out of the zone. It was physical game from both teams. Both teams played hard. We just have to finish more, find a way to score at the end.”
Wilson Lees finished with 14 saves for Summit, while Joe Bagi registered 20 saves for Indian Hills.
“The conditions tonight really hurt us. We have a lot of speed and it slowed us down with the kids having a hard time seeing each other,” Summit coach Keith Nixon, in his 27th season as bench boss at the Union County school, said.
“You go through a season you have to find different ways to win and you have to grind it out,” Nixon said. “Get pucks to the net and find a way to get ’em in the back. We got a seeing-eye (goal) to take the lead and Aiden had great hands on that penalty shot.”
“Overall, I thought we played pretty well for the most part but at the end of the day we have to start pulling out some W’s,'” Indian Hills coach Anthony Tabbacchino said. “We played with a very good team.
“At the beginning, it was all Summit the first four or five minutes but then we leveled it out,” Tabbacchino said. Then we started bringing it to them after Rory’s goal. The game was back and forth kind of like a seesaw. We showed it in the second period but we need to correct the third-period mistakes. You have to up the ante in the third and that was the problem tonight.”
Next up for Indian Hills is a tilt with Lakeland on December 8 at the Ice Vault in Wayne. The puck drops at 8 p.m.
After defeating Livingston in its season opener, Summit has two wins in two games before it takes on Montclair on Friday at 4:30 p.m. at Clary Anderson Arena. Off to a promising start, the defending McInnis Cup champions which advanced to the Public B quarterfinals are looking to continue to build momentum.
“It’s always nice coming out on top against someone out-of-area,” Puskar added. “It’s always good to assert your dominance and be the best team.”
Written by John Christian Hageny / @JCCSPORTS
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