by Andrew Garda
Montclair High School’s hockey team had a major test on Tuesday, Feb. 4, as they took on Summit, the top team in the McInnis division and a likely opponent at some point in the upcoming league playoffs.
Unfortunately, the Mounties (11-4-2, 7-2-2 NJIIHL) need more studying as they fell to the Hilltoppers (14-3-2, 10-0-1 NJIIHL) by a score of 7-3.
MHS, ranked No. 20 by NJ.com, made far too many mistakes against No. 7 Summit, according to head coach Mark Janifer.
“I thought, early on, we actually weren’t playing that bad,” Janifer said after the game. “But we made two really bad mistakes and they both ended up [with the puck] in the back of the net.”
The mistakes and penalties left senior goalie Lucas Podvey out to dry far too often, and while Podvey is a great netminder, there’s only so much he can do when faced with constant fast breaks and two-on-ones.
The first goal he gave up actually came when Montclair was on the power play. The defenders at the point misplayed a pass, and Summit’s Dylan Goldfarb took the puck and headed into the Mountie end. He sent a quick pass to teammate Jake Puskar, who immediately fired off a hard slap-shot which beat Podvey high on the glove side.
Then, with just under a minute to go in the first period, the Mounties coughed the puck up again, this time to Puskar, who fed it to Matt Vigliotta.
Vigliotta carried the puck into the Mounties’ defensive zone, then passed it to Greg Spitznagel, who sent it past Podvey.
The momentum stayed with the Hilltoppers to start the second, a sloppy, penalty filled period which saw a stream of players sent to the penalty box.
Montclair kicked things off with a penalty at 11:21 in the second, resulting in Spitznagel’s second goal of the game, a power-play goal beating Podvey high on the glove side again at 10:16.
Montclair finally got on the board later in the period while on the power play, as Eamon Thall found Brett Janifer with the puck, allowing the junior to beat Summit goalie Nikita Pryymak.
However, a series of penalties left Montclair with two men in the penalty box and on a four-on-three, which Summit’s Spencer Myres turned into a goal and a 4-1 lead. Shortly after, Montclair turned the puck over again, and Puskar scored his second goal of the game to make it 5-1.
“We took too many penalties, and they executed on their power play and that was that,” Janifer said.
A team like Summit is already a very dominating and talented team, Janifer said. You can’t make their job easier with poor play.
“If we want to compete against that caliber team — whether it’s in our league or the states — we’ve got to get better. You’ve got to get rid of those mistakes,” Janifer said. “You can get by when you play a lesser team, maybe making some mistakes, but when you’re playing a highly-skilled better team like that, the mistakes come back to haunt you.”
MHS may have been down, but they came out aggressively in the third period, and Brandon Silver made it 5-2 with assists by Aidan Hsieh and James Kaz. However, Tom Pryymak grabbed another Mounties turnover and made it 6-2 with just under seven minutes left in regulation.
Eamon Thall one-timed a Brett Janifer pass two minutes later to make it 6-3, but Summit responded one more time with a Jake Lowry goal to close the game out at 7-3.
With the end of the season, as well as the McInnis Cup playoffs, closing in, Janifer said he needs his team to refocus and find a way to clean up their mistakes.
“We have to have a good practice tomorrow,” Janifer said. “We come back right away on Wednesday and play West Essex, who is also very good. We just need to kind of have a short memory, forget this and work on getting better. It’s what we’ve been doing all year and we just have to keep that up.”
As for facing Summit again in the playoffs, Janifer said they’ll approach them the same way they do every team.
“One of the things that we say all the time is respect every opponent, but don’t fear any opponent.”