Although Hershey, Pennsylvania is known for chocolate and theme parks, it is also home to one of the most popular hockey tournaments in the Northeast. Last weekend, a group of 11 and 12 year olds from the local area entered the tournament and proceeded to win the whole thing. What makes this victory even more unique is that every participant on the team is shomer Shabbat and attend the local yeshivot in our area. The tournament director was kind enough to respect the request of this team that they cannot play from sundown Friday until after sunset Saturday night.
The shomer Shabbat team, who play for the New Jersey Avalanche hockey program based out of the Ice House in Hackensack, came into the tournament boasting a 19-0 record in their local league and ranked among the top 25 teams in the state for their age group.
The opening game was Friday morning against a selects team from Richmond, Virginia. The Avalanche boys came out on fire with a barrage of offense and a solid defense. When all was said and done, the final score showed the Avalanche winning 10-0 and quickly making a name for themselves among the other teams in their division.
The next game was against an elite team from Oswego, New York and it did not go nearly as well as the earlier game. Perhaps it was the Hershey bars for lunch or the Reese’s Pieces given out in the locker room before the game, but the boys came out flat and could never get their explosive offense going. Plagued with penalties as well as facing a defensively sound team, the Avalanche took their first loss of the year 3-1.
The boys immediately went back to their hotel to get ready for Shabbat, a bit disappointed from their loss but excited for a fun Shabbat with friends in the hotel. Along with their families the team experienced a fantastic Shabbat with their own room for a minyan, a sefer Torah, and meals catered by Tiran Nahari of Black Tie Events. As soon as Shabbat was over, the coach called a quick team meeting and the boys were ready to head back out for their third game. If they won, they would play in the championship game on Sunday; if they lose, they would be eliminated.
Game three was not close. Perhaps it was the cholent or maybe it was the rest they got on Shabbat, but whatever it was, the team came out flying. Before the end of the first period the Avalanche had already built a 6-0 lead over the local team from Lancaster,Pennsylvania. With everyone contributing both offensively and defensively, the final score was 11-0 and a spot was clinched for the championship which would be a rematch against the team they lost to the day before.
The championship game was held in front of a huge crowd but the boys from New Jersey did not disappoint their fans. Led by offensive performances by the “kid line” made up of all fifth graders from Moriah as well as contributions on offense and defense from the veteran seventh graders the Avalanche were clearly the better team from the start. According to their coach Rodney Zodda, “I’ve never witnessed such a performance by a team in all my years of coaching. From the stars to the role players, everyone played their heart out and contributed to the victory.” The final score was 5-0 and the trophy was hoisted to loud cheers from the loyal fans. Congrats to all!!