WEST ORANGE — If you climb it, it will come.
The Hilltoppers of Summit were down after coming up short in its quest for the Union Cup, but coach Keith Nixon has been around long enough to know one loss at the right time early in the season can be a catalyst for something far, far greater.
Greg Spitznagel opened the scoring 47 seconds into the game before the freshman connected again on the power play 2:43 into the second and top-seeded Summit, No. 5 in The Hockey Night in Boston New Jersey Top 10, never looked back fashioning a 3-1 victory over second-seeded Livingston in the final of the McInnis Cup at Codey Arena, South Mountain in West Orange.
“This is the first step in getting to ‘The Rock,'” sophomore Tom Pryymak, who capped the scoring with Summit’s second power-play goal of the game with 3:18 remaining, said. “It’s vital to our success to capitalize on our opportunities in the playoffs.”
“We wanted to get it going first shift of the game,” Spitznagel, who couldn’t quite put it all into words, said. “It feels pretty good. We just wanted to get the game flowing. We got the first one and the second goal, on the power play, Aidan Wiseman got it back to me in the slot and I buried it.”
The triumph marked back-to-back cups for Summit after defeating Livingston in overtime last season.
“You want to get the first one all the time no matter what team you’re playing but in a game like this, a championship game, scoring the first goal calmed us down,” Nixon said. “We stuck with the game plan and kept it going, played well, got pucks deep and established a forecheck. All season we’ve been a bend don’t break defense.”
“Spitzy has great offensive talent,” Nixon said. “It’s funny. We spent about 10 minutes on the ice working on one-timers on the outside and the give-and-go at practice and their play was just like it was in practice the other day. So there you go boys!”
The Hilltoppers had won six of the last eight Union Cups before falling to Westfield, 3-2, in the Union County final last month. Since the setback, however, Summit has gone 6-0-2, outscoring the opposition, 31-7, including three shutouts along the way.
After Spitznagel put Summit up 2-0 with his 16th of the year, Livingston battled back to within one when Jacob Fuhrman slashed the deficit in half with 44 seconds left in the second period. Adam Steiner assisted on the power-play goal which brought new life to the Lancers in the third.
“I don’t know if there was a missing ingredient. Their shots went in and ours didn’t,” Livingston senior Eric Frieman said. “Summit is a real strong team — the number one seed in Public C but we played with them. We brought our hardest but unfortunately we came up short. We tried our best but they didn’t blow us out of the water.”
Nursing a 2-1 lead, a five-minute major opened the door for Summit to continue to fine tune its power play.
“I was below the goal line, they had a lot of guys in the middle but Tom Pryymak was on the outside at the left wing,” defenseman Aidan Wiseman said. “He had a great shot bar down to seal the game.”
Wiseman, Spitznagel and Pryymak are among 12 underclassmen on the Hilltoppers roster.
“It’s a great feeling as a freshman but knowing my team went back-to-back here at the McInnis cup especially after such a disappointing loss in the Union Cup — it’s something we can show to other teams going into states that we aren’t someone they can mess with,” Wiseman said.
Summit improves to 20-2-2. The top seed in Public C, it awaits the winner of Cranford-Hopewell Valley in the Sweet-16.
Livingston drops to 14-5-5. Competing in Public B this season, the fourth-seeded Lancers will take on the winner of Scotch Plains-Ridgewood.
Written by John Christian Hageny / @JCCSPORTS
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