Summit Hockey Comes From Behind to Beat Cranford in UCIHL Semifinal
Thursday, February 21, 2013 • 12:57am
ELIZABETH, NJ - The tension in the Summit hockey dressing room in between the second and third period was at a boiling point. The defending state and county champions were only trailing No. 3 Cranford 2-1, but had seen better periods than the first two on Wednesday night.
Sparked by junior Liam McLaughlin's hat-trick less than seven minutes into the final period, Summit rallied for four unanswered goals to beat the Cougars 5-2 and advance to Saturday's county final against Westfield.
"We had a terrible first two periods," McLaughlin said. "Then we had a lot of words said in the locker room. [Chris Zanelli] threw a trash can. [Senior captain Mike] Badgley was saying stuff. He's a great leader; a great three-sport athlete. We knew we had to be better in the third period. I thought we had a really good third period."
After missing Friday's game with an undisclosed injury, McLaughlin has now scored five goals in the last two games, living up to Monday's announcement of his co-league MVP.
After McLaughlin gave Summit the lead in the final minute of the first period, Cranford answered back in the second with two scores, one from Alex Kempinski, the other from Jack Nunziato.
However, the junior captain scored the first two goals of the third period, both with help from Zanelli to re-capture the lead.
Less than two minutes after McLaughlin's third goal of the game and the go-ahead tally, the two connected again, this time with Zanelli lighting the lamp with McLaughlin's help.
"Me and Liam, we've been playing together since we were five-years-old on like the same team all the time, every year," Zanelli said. "We just kind of have good chemistry and we always know where we're going to be at the same time. Its second nature to us now."
Badgley added a goal of his own with 3:57 to play in regulation, as his Hilltoppers will fight for their third consecutive Union County Ice Hockey League title.
Summit and Westfield split the regular season series, with the Blue Devils taking the first game 4-3 and the Hilltoppers winning game two 5-4.
In the second meeting, Summit trailed 4-2 in the final minute before scoring three goals in the final 57 seconds to stun Westfield.
Zanelli said it is going to take three periods of hockey to be successful on Saturday.
"If we play like we did in the beginning of the game today, we're going to have a lot of trouble against Westfield and going forward in the states," the sophomore second-team all-county winner said. "We need to be able to bring it in the first two periods and not just wake up in the third."
Face-off for Saturday's county championship is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Warinanco Skating Center in Elizabeth.