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Thursday, September 20, 2018

(Credit Ben Wasserman)

(Credit Ben Wasserman)

The Frisch Cougars are well known around the yeshiva league for their athletic prowess, with many of Frisch’s teams dominating year after year, but the school recently expanded this triumph out of Jewish circles with its success on the ice. Just three years after they began playing varsity ice hockey at a state level, the Cougars have already secured a title, winning the McMullen Cup championship last Sunday. This win capped off a tremendous season for Frisch, which emerged at the top of its division due to teamwork and perseverance.

Senior captains Maury Bauer and Benjy Feintuch lead the offense, with each of them eclipsing 40 points on the season; they also both became members of the New Jersey State Hockey 100 points club after only three years playing. The team’s coach, Ralph Abecassis, was very praiseworthy of the dynamic duo, explaining how, “Maury’s deftness along with his ability to find open ice and Benjy’s imposing talent and size complemented one another nicely.” Rounding out the offense is junior Jake Fromen, who completes a line that any defense would find difficulty slowing down. The Cougars are strong defensively as well, led by captain Joe Tropp, whose long reach and ability to quickly recover make it hard for opponents to get by him, as well as the speedy and dynamic junior Noah Petak. Goalie captain Charlie Freilich completes an imposing lineup, of which opposing teams have to work hard to find any weak spots.

Though the Cougars played well all season long, they improved a lot over the course of the season, which enabled them to make their playoff run. It was how the players responded to and bounced back from the few bumps in their season that set them apart and allowed them to grow as a team. Losing their first game at the very end of the regular season had a strong effect on the Cougars; the players realized that they couldn’t rely on talent alone, but had to work together as one unit if they were to actualize their hopes for a championship run. Throughout the season, they had learned to incorporate systems and execute their game plan tailored to each opponent. Their efforts came to fruition during the playoffs, as they were able to adjust their game plan for each of their highly skilled opponents.

The Cougars entered the playoffs with their eyes on the prize, hoping to bring home the team’s first ever championship. After beating West Orange in the semifinals, the Cougars faced off against the Oratory Rams in a thrilling finals match up. Frisch had topped Oratory in their first game of the season, but the Rams had their chance at revenge, later on, handing Frisch their sole loss. After splitting their games during the regular season, it was anyone’s guess at which team would emerge as champions.

After giving up an early power play goal, the Cougars responded with force, led off by two goals from Fromen. Another goal by Oratory was met with a score from junior Avery Bloom, and the Cougars exited the first up one. The teams scored two goals apiece in the second period, including a skillful shorthanded shot by Fromen to finish off the hat trick. With the clock winding down in the third, Oratory was mounting on the pressure to try and tie up the game. However, an untimely penalty allowed Bauer to seal the game with a power-play goal late in the third, Bauer’s second score of the night.

As the Cougars hoisted the trophy, they knew that a season of hard work and determination had finally paid off. However, there was a lot more than a trophy that they gained from the opportunity to compete at this level. Being pioneers of yeshiva teams competing in this ice hockey league, the players understood that they were not just representing their school, but the Jewish community as a whole. At first, this would seem to put extra pressure on the team; however, as Coach Abecassis beautifully put it, “these kids were never burdened by it, they embraced it. We were even the recipients of the Conference Sportsmanship Award in our first year of play. The state holds this award in extremely high regard, so the players really outdid themselves. For all of us, players, parents and coaches, it provided us a unique learning opportunity that does not come along very often.” If other yeshivas do eventually join the league, it will be due to the efforts that the Frisch program made to pave the way and show the outside world the high standards to which we hold ourselves both on and off the ice.

By Eli Rifkind