NEWARK – Sophomore forward Greg Spitznagel scored a pair of quick goals, and Summit dispatched Chatham, 6-2, in the NJSIAA Public C hockey final.
It was the second year the Hilltoppers had ended the Cougars’ season at the Prudential Center, last winter 3-0. And just like a year ago, Chatham outshot Summit by a significant margin.
“We tried to go and go, and there were bounces and bounces,” Chatham senior forward Evan Schmidt said. That’s our sport. That’s hockey. We can laugh right now, just as much as be sad.”
Senior forward Jack Deletto gave the Cougars the lead less than three minutes into the game. But Spitznagel tallied twice in less than three minutes to give Summit a lead it would not relinquish.
The Hilltoppers added three second-period goals, including off a rebound with 26.8 seconds left. Summit converted on three power-play opportunities, including a 4-on-3 late in the third period.
It was the first time Chatham goaltender Zach Pendergrast had allowed more than two goals in a game since January 11. Hilltoppers goalkeeper Nikita Pryymak stopped 38 shots in the final, giving him 97 saves on 102 postseason opportunities.
Summit had also beaten Chatham, 5-1, on December 21.
Trailing 5-1 heading into the third period, the Cougars seniors rallied their teammates in the locker room, according to defenseman Colin Pearce. The sixth seed in Public C, Chatham received an at-large bid to the NJSIAA Tournament — a source of an underdog mentality and point of pride.
After starting the year 5-10-1, the Cougars had rallied to go 9-1-1 up to the seeding cutoff.
“We didn’t quit,” Pearce said. “We said, ‘Don’t come out if you won’t play with heart,’ and the locker room was empty. I just love this team.”