Summit came into the season with seven defensemen that had varsity experience from a season ago.
Injuries have whittled that number down to five, including its starting goalie, but the Hilltoppers, No. 9 in the NJ.com Top 20, are showcasing its youth and depth with its latest success, a 4-1 victory over Westfield Tuesday night, a prime example of that.
Behind that defensive unit and freshman goalie Grant McCormack, Summit limited Westfield to just 16 shots on goal and kept the puck in the attacking zone for much of the second and third period en route to a 37-16 edge in that category.
“We practice with eight defensemen on a regular basis and we have seven guys with varsity experience returning,” Summit coach Keith Nixon said. “Then we lost two of them and until they get back, those other guys have been stepping up. They’re getting a chance to show what they can do and we’re trying to keep it simple back there.”
Added Summit’s Greg Moller, “We have a lot of young guys on the defense this year. But those guys have been stepping up and playing pretty well defensively. We have a rookie goalie as well and he’s been doing great so far.”
Eight different Summit players recorded a point with Jake Puskar and Tom Pryymak each recording a goal and an assist with Charlie Collins and Greg Spitznagel both knocking on a goal apiece.
Westfield was able to keep up with Summit in the first 15 minutes to head into the first intermission with a scoreless tie. Blue Devils goalie CJ Duffy continually made impressive saves throughout the night en route to a 33-save performance. The shots came much more frequently as the game wore on, however, giving Summit more opportunities to put points on the board
“When you get the puck deep in the other team’s zone, you may not score a lot of goals but you’ll put them on their heels. They looked really good in the first period but I think they got tired. Playing defense does that to you.”
Collins was able to net the first goal in the first five minutes of the second period. John Humiston knotted the game as he took advantage of a Summit penalty with assists from Dylan Howard and Thomas Conrod but the Hilltoppers were able to respond less than a minute later with Pryymak’s score.
Summit continued to apply the pressure out of the second intermission, resulting in Puskar and Spitznagel scoring and the offensive unit keeping the puck in the attacking zone to limit Westfield’s offensive chances.
“We play every game as if it’s our last,” Moller said. “We want to keep the pucks out of the net and our offense does a great job of putting it in their net.