After racing down the wing on the way to firing the game’s first goal, Mike Nyitray decided to switch it up when a similar opportunity faced him this time around. When his teammates came charging into the zone, the senior defenseman sent a crisp pass to forward Riley Flynn who was skating alone in front of the net.
“I knew I wasn’t going to be able to beat him,” said Nyitray. “So I put the brakes on, gave it to Riley and he put it away.”
Flynn’s finish 9:59 into the overtime period gave Summit a 2-1 victory and their first ever New Jersey Public B championship.
“Great pass, right on the tape,” said Flynn. “I saw the corner open, so I just let it go.”
Flynn was one of the many scoring threats for an effective and balanced Summit attack this season. Summit finished with an impressive eight players with over 25 points for the season.
“Everybody has contributed on this team at some point,” said Coach Keith Nixon. “When we’ve had injuries it has just been someone stepping in and taking that guy’s spot.”
With the score knotted at zero after one, both teams came out of the locker room hoping to find their way on the offensive end.
The scoring drought appeared set to carry into the third intermission until Summit finally broke the scoreless tie when Mike Nyitray was able to beat Tenafly's goalie, Winawer for the game's opening goal.
The defenseman showed off his wheels as he rushed past the defender down the right wing and into the zone to gather the loose puck. Nyitray snapped off a quick wrist shot from the right circle that deflected off the right shoulder of Winawer and into the back of the net for the 1-0 lead with 2:05 to play.
Summit did not have much time to enjoy their lead however, as the Tigers responded in swift and impressive fashion on an Eric Shalek goal just 59 seconds after the Hilltoppers the advantage.
Shalek, who found some real estate just in front of McGowan, was fed a beautiful backhand pass from behind the net courtesy of his linemate and brother Scott. The goal seemed to stun the Summit crowd who had barely finished celebrating the Hilltoppers’ own tally.
Neither team was able to convert throughout a tense third period and the game was headed for a 15 minute overtime period to determine a champion.
The best chance of the thrid came with 2:25 to play in the game when Eli Markowitz raced down the left side and fired a wrist shot that McGowan was able to snag with his glove.
The overtime was unchartered waters for Summit, who had not played in one all season. For Tenafly, it was the fifth consecutive game where they had gone into the extra period. Each team had 15:00 to put in the game-winning goal.
“Going into the game I said look, I don’t know how long they could keep this,” said Nixon. “If we get a chance to take advantage of them without legs, we’ve got to do it.”
Rolling only two lines, Summit was the aggressor in the extra period and pounced on their opponent from the opening whistle, finally getting their forecheck going.
“They did a great job of denying us our forecheck,” Nixon explained.
Tenafly nearly converted the game-winning goal when Brandon Bernstein sent a beautiful feed to Markowitz who was unable to finish the one-time opportunity halfway through the overtime.
Summit had a few great opportunities of their own when Chris Zanelli was able to get off a great look in front that was stopped by Winawer. Earlier in the overtime, the Tigers’ goalie made another great save on a Frank Lawrence shot from just in front.
Flynn’s goal came just under two and a half minutes later and the celebration was on. The win was the first hockey championship for Summit. The Hilltoppers previous best was a 2000 public finals loss to Bayonne.
Sophomore Garrett McGowan was great in net for the Hilltoppers, turning away 22 Tenafly shots including some impressive saves throughout. Winawer too was outstanding in this one and both were arguably the most valuable players for their respective teams.
This year’s Summit squad was finally able to get over the hump thanks to a talented and deep team that Nixon credits for its workman like approach.
“They never looked back, never made excuses. Who ever was up was going to do the job,” said Nixon. “There is a lot of perspective with this team. We never got too high, never got too low.”
Summit- Nyitray 2:05 2nd (Lawrence), Flynn 5:01 OT (Nyitray)
Tenafly- Shalek, E 1:06 2nd (Shalek, S)