Summit wins first state championship in team history
by Rob Hoffman
With just over five minutes remaining in the overtime period of the Public B state finals, the Summit Hilltoppers appeared to be on their way to their first ever state championship in their 29-year history being a co-championship. However, that was not the case when senior defenseman Mike Nyitray carried the puck into the Tenafly zone and set up freshman forward Riley Flynn for the championship-winning goal.
“It’s been a building process the last couple of years,” 18th-year head coach Keith Nixon said. “We kept coming closer and closer. We’ve had some big disappointments in the last few years, but we knew we had the talent to succeed this year.”
Nixon was so confident in his team that he scheduled the toughest opponents he could this season. “We purposely played a tougher schedule this year. We played seven of the top 15 preseason teams. I wanted to get the best teams that would play us,” he explained.
The team had to be prepared for a state tournament run. “I’ve had teams that celebrated too early,” Nixon stated. “The 2000 team beat Brick in the semifinals, who hadn’t lost to a public school in five years. It was a huge upset, but it was like our Stanley Cup. We had forgotten to win the championship.”
“I kept telling my guys you don’t want to have a nail biter every night, especially in the state tournament,” he said. “If you can make it easier on yourself, do it, because somewhere along the line, you’re going to get the game that tests you, and it’s better later than sooner.”
Nixon used other teams an example. Point Pleasant had come into the quarterfinal matchup with Summit off of back-to-back 1-goal upset wins. “Emotionally, it’s hard to keep going like that. We have to use that to our advantage,” he told his players.
To better themselves as individuals, Nixon and his coaching staff met with the team every Saturday morning. “Every kid and coach has to get up and talk. We talk about the state of the team, what we did well, what we have to continue doing going forward,” he said.
At one particular meeting, the team had just lost back-to-back heartbreakers. “I told them you have to look at the man in the mirror. Is everyone doing their best job to help the team?” he said. “Whether you’re in school, or at your job, am I giving my best effort at what I’m doing?”
This particular team building exercise ended up really strengthening the bond the team members had. “It made us a lot stronger and gave the kids confidence in each other. It pulled us together as a team. As long as we are giving our best effort, we can be proud of our team and supportive of each other,” he explained.
Looking towards the future, Nixon is confident in his team’s chances. “We’ve got kids that any other year would have seen a lot more playing time. We have a lot of talent coming back with our forwards. We’re in good shape offensively,” he explained. “We have a lot of depth at the goaltender position. Our starter played 28 games this year a sophomore.”
Defensively, the team has some work to do. “We have a freshman and a sophomore that played varsity this year, but we’re graduating five defensemen. We’re going to have to work on developing some defenseman next year.
PUBLIC B FINALS: Summit 2, Tenafly 1 (OT)
The Tenafly Tigers won all three of their previous tournament games in overtime or the shootout, so it was no surprise when their matchup in the finals against the Summit Hilltoppers wasn't decided in the 45 minutes of regulation.
Mike Nyitray had scored to put the Hilltoppers up 1-0 late in the second period, but less than a minute later the Tigers tied the game up when Eric Shalek took a pass from brother Scott with 1:06 remaining in the second.
Nyitray was able to get the primary assist on the game-winning goal when he carried the puck into the offensive zone and set up freshman Riley Flynn to score his seventeenth and final goal of the season. The final shot tally was in favor of Summit, 28-23, in an evenly contested match.
||PUBLIC B RESULTS
Overtime warriors Tenafly to meet Summit in Public B state championship
by Rob Hoffman
With their third consecutive overtime playoff win, No. 3 Tenafly will take on No. 4 Summit in the Public B state championship finals on Friday, March 9 at the Prudential Center. Face off in Newark is scheduled for 5 PM.
“We’ve worked hard to get here,” coach Andy Escala said. “A lot of [our overtime success] comes from our will to win.” The Tenafly Tigers (24-3-1) have now won all three tournament games in overtime, including a 2-1 shootout victory over No. 15 Glen Rock last night.
With 4:17 remaining in regulation, junior Eli Markowitz tied the game for the Tigers after a faceoff victory in their offensive zone. After a 15 minute scoreless overtime period, the game went to a shootout where Markowitz scored again. Senior captain Jordan Lang also scored to give Tenafly a 2-1 victory as senior goalie Jon Winawer stopped four out of the five shootout attempts.
The Summit Hilltoppers advance to the Public B final following their 3-2 to win over No. 9 Ramsey on Wednesday afternoon. The victory came following three second period powerplay goals, the final one being scored by freshman Chris Zanelli. The two other powerplay goals were scored by Mike Santina and Mike Nyitray. Goalie Garrett McGowan stopped 26 of the 28 shots he faced in the victory.
“When you set a goal for yourself at the beginning of the season and you actually give yourself an opportunity to achieve that goal, it’s special. It doesn’t happen often,” coach Keith Nixon said.
Summit won the Union County Ice Hockey League for the second time in three years, as well as their third consecutive Union County Cup. The Hilltoppers have shutout their opponent seven times this season. “I knew with this group of kids, we had a real chance to get here. We’ve done everything necessary to make it happen,” he said of his 23-4-2 team.
Both teams have kept a very reserved attitude as they have approached the state finals. “We’ve seen it the last couple of weeks where we just win and move on, win and move on. I think if we win tomorrow night, you’re going to see a hell of an eruption,” said Coach Nixon.
Coach Escala agrees: “Once both teams take the ice, it’s just like any other game. Anything can happen. You never know how the puck is going to bounce.”
Glen Rock continues to surprise
by Rob Hoffman
With their 2-0 shutout of No. 7 Brick, No. 15 Glen Rock continues to surprise as they have now advanced to the semifinals of the Public B tournament. The Panthers first defeated No. 2 Chatham in the Round of 16 on March 1. Sunday’s win over the Brick Green Dragons featured the game-winning goal with 1:16 remaining in the first by Chris Adschiew and a late empty net goal by Jon Spada to secure the win. Freshman goaltender Chris Birdsall turned away all 39 shots he faced.
No. 3 Tenafly’s 2-1 overtime victory against No. 27 Montville advances them to the semifinals at Mennen Arena to face Glen Rock. The Tigers victory over the Mustangs came courtesy of two goals by Eli Markowitz, with the game winner coming at 4:38 in the overtime period.
The other semifinal matchup in the Public B bracket is No. 9 Ramsey vs. No 4. Summit. Ramsey is coming off a 3-2 shootout winner over No. 1 Kinnelon while Summit blanked No. 21 Point Pleasant Borough 4-0.
Shalek scores shootout winner for No. 3 Tenafly
by Rob Hoffman
Leap Day featured only one game in the Public B bracket, but it was perhaps the most exciting game of any games in the NJSIAA Tournaments thus far. No.3 Tenafly scored a 3-2 shootout victory over No. 19 Hanover Park after three regulation periods and an overtime period couldn’t determine a winner.
Eric Shalek scored the third and final goal of the shootout in the fourth round for the Tigers, beating the Park goalie blocker-side. Teammates Jordan Lang and Brandon Bernstein also scored in the shootout. For Hanover Park, it was forward Mike Meggiolaro beating Tigers goalie Jon Winawer to keep Park alive in the fourth round of the shootout.
Third-seeded Tenafly saw regulation goals from Max Drut in the first period and Jake Bernstein in the second. Park had equalizers from Meggiolaro in the first and Jimmy White in the third.
Tenafly will see the winner of No. 27 Montville, who played spoiler to No. 6 Ramapo, and No. 11 Indian Hills, who were scheduled to face off sometime on March 1.
Public B First Round headlined by close games, late rallies
No. 16 Princeton took on No. 17 Rumson in a Monday afternoon matchup that featured two of their respective division's best teams. The Rumson Bulldogs won the Dowd Cup in the Shore Conference while the Princeton Little Tigers were runners-up in the Mercer County Tournament in the Colonial Valley Conference. The Little Tigers topped the Bulldogs 4-2 as forward Mike Wasson put up two goals and two assists while goalie Josh Berger stopped 24 of the 26 shots he faced.
by Rob Hoffman
Other key matchups in the first round included No. 5 Paramus barely holding off a late rally by by No. 28 Sparta to win 8-7, No. 20 Verona upsetting No. 13 Mahwah 5-1, and No. 27 Montville upsetting No. 6 Ramapo 4-1.
The Round of 16 for Public B bracket begins February 29 with a 7:00 PM puck drop between No. 3 Tenafly and No. 19 Hanover Park.