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Monday, June 17, 2019

The championship Gators.

On April 6 and 7, the Rofeh Cholim Cancer Society (RCCS) hosted its second annual hockey tournament to raise money for the organization, which provides financial and logistical support to Jewish families who are dealing with a loved one afflicted by cancer. The tournament was a huge success, raising $1.6 million for this worthy cause.

There were 16 teams from across the tri-state area that participated. The teams were divided into two divisions: Divisions A and Division B. Each team played five exhausting games between Saturday night and Sunday.

A team consisting of players that were primarily from Teaneck (as well as a few from Englewood, West Orange and Riverdale) won the Division B championship. The team, aptly named the Gators, was hungry for the title and worked hard to secure it, anchored by the superb goaltending of team MVP Henri Kolb and the leadership of team captain Josh Kirschenbaum, aka “Captain Kirsch.”

The Gators began the tournament at 9:30 p.m. on Saturday night with an intense game against Team Paramus. The Gators struck first in the second period when Noam Spinowitz, MD, aka “Icy Hot,” banged home a goal off a gorgeous touch pass from Richie “the Rocket” Pomerantz, demonstrating that these old-time players still have some gas left in the tank. Paramus tied the game at one apiece shortly thereafter with a wrist shot going top corner. But in the third period, Dr. Azriel Rauzman (DDS, not MD), Dr. Spinowitz’s brother-in-law, scored the game winning goal from the side of the net off a nice pass from Captain Kirsch, giving the Gators their first taste of victory in the tournament. The victory was sealed through the stellar goaltending of Henri Kolb and the lockdown defense supplied by Adam Leffel, Ari Wolf, Judah Eizikovitz, Eli Schiff and James and Jonathan Seplowitz.

The next game, which started at 11:20 p.m., was against Team Lakewood. The Gators got off to an early start, drawing a hooking penalty in the first few minutes of the hockey. On the power play, Kirschenbaum caught James “the Sniper” Seplowitz cutting in with a seamless pass that Seplowitz wristed to the top left corner for the 1-0 lead. However, the fatigue from the first game and the effects of the Kirschenbaum kiddush from earlier in the day began to set in, especially for the members of the team who are in their 40s, and Lakewood wound up running away with the rest of the game for a final score of 6-1.

The following morning, the Gators needed to win to qualify for the first tier playoff bracket. They faced off against Team YYT. The game was intense, with numerous penalties being called on Team YYT. The Gators were able to capitalize and emerged with a 3-1 victory spearheaded by Elli Spinowitz’s hat trick and Henri Kolb’s remarkable goaltending.

In the afternoon, the Gators faced off against Team Dasmen for the semifinal matchup. Team Dasmen scored first, but Elli Spinowitz answered off the ensuing faceoff, scoring a backhand shot assisted by his father. A couple of minutes later, Elli returned the favor to Dr. Spinowitz in a beautiful give and go that the Doc Icy Hot hammered home. Elli Spinowitz scored one more, followed by a really nice goal from Eli Schiff. Avraham Gellman scored short side on a breakaway to ice the game for a 5-3 victory, sending the Gators to the championship, a rematch against Team Lakewood.

Despite the exhaustion of having played four games in less than 24 hours, both teams came out hard, gunning for the tournament cup. The Gators were down to only two lines of defense but, under the leadership of assistant captain Adam Leffel, aka “Chaim,” they held up well despite the fatigue and soreness. They were assisted by outstanding backchecking from Aryeh “All Day” Kurz and Elli Spinowitz and a ferocious forecheck by Yosef Teitelbaum and Avraham Gellman. The goaltending on both sides was phenomenal, with the second period ending in a 0-0 tie.

Although they both suffered injuries in the second period, Dr. Spinowitz and Dr. Rauzman returned for the third period, firing up the team. A few minutes into the period, Eli Schiff shot a slap shot from the point that bounced wide off the boards to Captain Kirsch who then corralled the puck and shelved a wrister for a 1-0 lead. On the next shift, the Seplowitz brothers were playing the point when Kenny “Kenalty” Schiff made his patent spin move on the boards and caught James cutting in with a perfectly placed pass that was one-timed towards the net and deflected in off a defenseman, giving the Gators a 2-0 margin with only nine minutes left in the game.

The Gators continued to push forward for the rest of the game and defended against the Lakewood counterattack. However, with 25 seconds left, Team Lakewood was finally able to break Henri’s shutout on a scramble in front of the net. Lakewood then had one more rush with a few seconds left, but it was ably broken up by a diving Leffel. When the buzzer sounded, Kolb tapped the pipes with his stick and the team began to celebrate the epic win. After Leffel hoisted Kenny, the team hoisted the well-earned cup in appreciation of a great tournament for an even greater cause.

By The Gators