There were only three words spoken when Summit took the Prudential Center Ice Monday afternoon.
‘We owe them.’
Top-seeded Summit, No. 9 in the NJ.com Top 20, had only lost to one public school all season. As luck would have it, Summit would get a chance at redemption against that team, third-seeded and No. 19 Ramsey, in the NJSIAA/Devils Public C championship game.
Summit didn’t miss. And because of that the Hilltoppers brought back the Public C title back to Union County for the third straight season with a 5-2 victory over Ramsey.
“The expectation was to win,” Summit coach Ian Bell said. “This was the only public school that beat us this year. The last thing I said before we went out was, ‘we owe them.’ They had us circled on the calendar and they took us to the cleaners (in a 5-1 loss to the Rams on Dec. 23). They took care of us nicely that game. We owed them.”
It didn’t take long for Summit, spearheaded by its offensive trio of Greg Spitznagel, Tom Pryymak and Jake Puskar, affectionately known as the Transformers, to strike.
The three players with the nicknames of Mega-Spitz, Pusk-tron and Optimus Pryymak respectively went to work with Pryymak scoring the game’s first goal five minutes into the frame. He’d find the back of the net again five minutes into the second period to give Summit a 3-0 edge.
“This is our third time here so we knew what we needed to do coming into today,” Pryymak said. “That helps us out, knowing what to expect.”
Added Bell, “You’re waiting to see which one of the Transformers to show up. It was just waiting to see who would be the first one up. When you have players of that caliber you know you can rely on them.”
Pryymak’s brother, goalie Nikita, was just as ready to complete the three-peat. His 28 saves came with the Hilltoppers needing yet another spectacular performance.
With its back against the wall, Ramsey struck twice within a span of just over three minutes in the second period. From that point on, Nikita Pryymak was not going to allow the Rams to find its equalizer. That allowed Summit to respond with Dylan Goldfarb finding the back of the net with 1:19 left in the frame.
“They came back and scored those two quick ones to get right back in it,” Nikita Pryymak said. “We needed that one and it was good for the team. It’s a different game if we’re only up one (through two periods).”
For Bell, a former Summit player and longtime assistant, it was a moment of firsts. Bell took over this season for longtime coach Keith Nixon following his retirement after 27 years at the helm.
The familiarity, as well as the experience of a championship-caliber team, made for a smooth transition.
“Taking over a team with the kind of players like this and the experience they have has made it seamless,” Bell said. “You’re taking over a program that has been well run by Keith Nixon for 27 years. I was fortunate to play in the program for four years and be with the program over the last 12, 13 years. Being involved in that and getting to see how everything works has been seamless.”