Monday, May 20, 2019

Kushner Cobra JV champions.

On a Sunday that saw 10 periods of hockey played, the Metropolitan Yeshiva High School Athletic League crowned its 2019 JV and varsity hockey champions. Lawrence Middle School on Long Island, once again, became the focal point of the yeshiva sports world as, for the first time since 2016, four different schools competed to bring home floor hockey’s top prizes. The fans that packed the building that day got more than they ever bargained for.

The afternoon began with the JV championship, where, for the third year in a row, two Western Conference teams squared off as the West #2 seed, Kushner Cobras, met up with the West #1 seed and defending league champion, TABC Storm.

The first period was a scoreless battle until 2:16 left before the intermission when, as a TABC defender attempted to make a move with the ball, Kushner sophomore Ben Orbach got his stick in the way, directed it into the TABC net, giving the Cobras a 1-0. The lead held through the second period as TABC’s Jonah Elzweig and Kushner’s Itai Merlin settled in, with both defenses denying solid opportunities throughout the stanza. In the third though, the game took a turn that would define the afternoon. With 7:12 to go, TABC freshman Joey Zelig broke in on the Kushner net, picked up his own rebound and flipped it over a sprawled-out Merlin to knot the game at one apiece. Each team took a penalty as the period wound down, but neither side could find the back of the net, sending to the game to overtime, marking the first JV final to go to extra frames since 2009.

Twelve more minutes passed and the first overtime ended with no resolution. In the meantime, the stands were at capacity as fans entered for the varsity game and found the JV game still on-going. The second overtime was similar to the first, until late in the period when Kushner took a penalty, giving the vaunted TABC power-play an opportunity with Kushner on tired legs. However, the Cobra penalty-kill and Merlin stood strong, killing off 43 seconds remaining in the second overtime.

Entering a third overtime, the game was now in the record books as the longest championship game in MYHSAL hockey history. The Storm looked poised to put the game away early in the session with another 47 seconds on their man-advantage, but they could not convert, allowing Kushner to return to full-strength. The misstep proved costly for the Storm. Three minutes later, sophomore Jesse Koppel was able to hold the line on a TABC clear attempt, Ben Orbach picked up the loose ball and fired a pass to his brother, Max who slammed it into the TABC net for the game winner and Kushner’s first-ever JV championship. The championship MVP trophy was awarded to Merlin, who only gave up one goal in just over 63 minutes of action.

Little did the fans know that the JV game would be a harbinger of things to come for the varsity championship. For both the Cougars and the Wildcats, the championship would bring with it a shot at perfection. Both teams entered the playoffs with an undefeated 14-0 record, as the top seeds in their respective conferences. However, the game carried even more weight for both schools. For Frisch, the matchup meant the opportunity to avenge their varsity championship loss to the Wildcats three years ago. For DRS, the sting hit a little closer to home, as, while freshmen and sophomores, Frisch overcame an early deficit to knock off the Wildcats in overtime in the JV semifinals.

The first period was a scoreless contest, as neither team seemed to find their footing. The first notch on the board came in the second, and it would be in the form of friendly fire, as four minutes in an errant Frisch clear attempt bounced off Cougar goalie Isaac Markovitz and into the net, giving DRS a 1-0 lead.

Over the next two periods, the Wildcats looked well on their way to taking their second varsity championship in two years and sending Frisch to their third-straight championship loss. But, with time running out, history would repeat itself. A high-sticking penalty put Frisch on the power-play with 3:11 left in the game and the Cougars made it count. Halfway through the man-advantage, the ball made its way to the left side of the floor, where senior Josh Levine, as he did in the semifinal two years ago, deposited the ball in the back of the net to tie the game at 1-1. DRS had an opportunity of their own as the clock wound down, but could not convert on their man-advantage as regulation drew to a close, sending the second game of the day to overtime as well.

The extra frame marked the 10th of the day, the most ever for a double-header in the history of the JV and varsity leagues. For much of the 12-minute period, it looked as if the packed crowd would be in line for an 11th. However, with just over a minute left, Frisch took a roughing penalty, giving DRS a great opportunity, with momentum. A DRS pass back to the point went awry and wound up on the stick of Frisch junior Elliot Eisner. With no one between him and the DRS net, Eisner went the length of the floor and tucked a shot into the far corner just out of the reach of DRS goalie Akiva Aryeh for the game-winning goal, giving Frisch its first varsity championship since 2005. Eisner also received the championship MVP award.

Congratulations are in order to all of the champions, Kushner coach Paul Reiz, Frisch coach Yaak Lisker as well as both administrations for the accomplishments of their kids during the 2018-2019 hockey season. After a day of over 110 minutes of hockey action, the championship trophies were well earned.

By Elliot Weiselberg

Elliot Weiselberg is the voice of the yeshiva league championships, the host of the Court Report and the JM in the AM Sports Update for Nachum Segal, and a regular hockey contributor to the Yeshiva League Pass account on Instgram.