On Tuesday night February 27, in a packed TABC gym, the RYNJ Jaguars defeated the Moriah Mountaineers 3-1 and were crowned the Haymish Champions for the 2017-18 season. The finals pitted the top scoring Moriah team (coached by Ezra Stone and
Jack Ganchrow), who had scored six goals in each of its playoff wins vs. the best defensive RYNJ team (coached by Dov Elefant and Yitzi Karasick) who recorded two shutouts on its way to the finals.
In the first period, Moriah had the upper hand with a few more chances than RYNJ but
neither team could find the back of the net. That was until there were just 17 seconds left in the period when captain Jack Fischer scored for Moriah on a pass from Gabriel Hornblass, beating RYNJ goalie Chaim Mermelstein, to give them an early 1-0 lead.
In the second period, RYNJ started gaining momentum and had numerous opportunities, hitting the post a few times, but Moriah goalie Eitan Rosenblatt, who was outstanding throughout the game, made save after save to keep the score at 1-0 as the teams headed into the final period.
As the third period began you can sense the tension and excitement in the gym as the fans for both teams were loudly cheering on the boys. RYNJ came out extremely aggressive and again had numerous opportunities on an early powerplay but Rosenblatt made another extraordinary diving save sliding across the crease to stone RYNJ. A few minutes later, RYNJ was on another powerplay and was pressuring the Moriah team when Eli Knapp scored to tie the game with 4:54 remaining just as the power play expired pouncing on his own rebound. With 3:28 left in regulation and the Jaguars with a man advantage, Eli Knapp won an offensive zone faceoff back towards the point where Ezra Landa made a beautiful blind backhand pass across the court to a waiting Noam Kornwasser, who blasted a one-timer into the net for a 2-1 Jaguar lead and what would be the game winning (power play) goal. The RYNJ fans erupted. But only a half-minute later, Moriah went on a power play with a chance to tie it up. Moriah had numerous scoring opportunities but were shut down on the powerplay by Mermelstein and the strong defensive effort by the Jaguar penalty killers. As the clock was winding down, Moriah pulled their goalie for an extra player and was pressuring RYNJ in effort to tie game. And then with the seconds ticking away, Noam Kornwasser was able to clear the ball out of the zone with a perfectly placed shot into the empty net with just 8.8 seconds left for the clincher and his second goal of the game. When the clock reached zero the Jaguars fan base rushed the court and celebrated the win with the team. Mermelstein was stellar throughout the game and the first period goal was the only goal he allowed throughout the playoffs.
The championship was the first ever for any RYNJ boys team in the schools’ history. Jaguar coaches Dov Elefant and Yitzi Karasick said one of the best moments after the game was watching the boys hoist the trophy and then give Rabbi Kaminetsky his opportunity to lift it as well.
A special thank you to TABC for hosting the game, to Avrumi Davis and Yoel Jacobson for doing the play by play on TABC TV and to volunteer commissioner David Gross for all he’s done for the league for the past fourteen years.