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Sunday, June 16, 2019

The RYNJ Jaguars.

Tournament MVP Dani Greenberg.

The RYNJ Jaguars continue to pile up the hardware in 2019, taking home the biggest prize in junior high hockey this past Sunday at the 14th annual Martin Weiselberg Memorial Hockey Tournament. The victors joined seven other schools: HALB, HANC, Yavneh, Kushner, HAFTR, YCQ and host Har Torah for a full day of action in Bellerose, New York, for the chance to earn the championship for the only hockey tournament on any age level.

The eight schools were split into two divisions, in which each played two round-robin games with the top two moving on to the knockout rounds. In the morning session, HAFTR opened up the day with a convincing victory over YCQ before the action picked up with two battles between the New York and New Jersey league finalists. New York champion HALB overcame an early goal by New Jersey runner-up Kushner to take a 3-1 win while RYNJ, the Jersey champs took out New York runner-up HANC 5-0. In the final matchup of the morning, a battle between two tournament originals saw Yavneh defeat Har Torah, 2-1, for the second year in a row, behind two goals by Jacob and Ethan Mauskopf.

Following a pizza lunch courtesy of Benny’s Pizza in Queens, the afternoon session featured some of the most incredible action in tournament history. Rounding out the A division of games, Kushner rebounded from their first tournament loss since 2016 by defeating HAFTR 5-0 to set up a shootout between the two schools to see who would advance with HALB, who defeated YCQ. Kushner’s Isaac Mendelson would score the lone goal in the shootout to help the two-time defending champs move on to the knockout stages.

In the B division, RYNJ advanced, defeating Har Torah before the most entertaining matchup of the afternoon between Yavneh and the other tournament original, HANC. Yavneh held a 2-1 lead late in the third period on two goals by Jacob Feit, when HANC would find itself on the penalty kill heading into the last minute. Within the blink of an eye, however, the future of the New York league put itself on display as HANC sixth grade phenom Eliya Yizhaky scored two short-handed goals within 20 seconds to give HANC the 3-2 win, forcing a shootout between the two to see who would move on. Moshi Grossman would put HANC on the board first with a highlight reel goal, but he would be only the Hurricane to find the net, while Eitan Geisler and Feit scored to push Yavneh through to the playoffs.

Following Mincha, the four remaining teams took the floor for the final three games of the day. In the A semifinal, Marc Matlis tallied two assists on goals by Moshe Rattner and Yoni Adler, and Shmulie Glick posted a shutout in net to lift HALB over Kushner to advance to their first tournament championship. In the B semifinal, RYNJ continued their offensive onslaught, topping Yavneh 5-0 to create what would be the second time in tournament history where the two league champions would meet up in the finals.

The game would remain scoreless as the two top goalies on the day, Glick and RYNJ’s Chaim Mermelstein held strong through nearly two periods of play. However, with only 10 seconds remaining in the second period, the tide would turn in the Jaguars’ favor as Gavriel Rudman would find Dani Greenberg on a 2-on-1 who put the ball over Glick for the lead. HALB would attempt to claw their way back to even, but, with just a little over three minutes remaining in the third period, the best offensive combination on the day would strike again, as Greenberg would take another Rudman pass in front of the net and bank it home to put the game away.

Greenberg’s four playoff goals and stellar play on the day, as a whole, would cement his standing as tournament MVP. The win marks RYNJ’s first tournament championship since 2007, when they entered as an independent team, prior to them joining HAYMISH,

The day would also not have been possible without Yeshiva Har Torah, Rabbi Gary Menchel and Ed Fox, who graciously opened their doors to the very first tournament in 2006, three months after the passing of then-assistant coach Elliot Weiselberg’s father Marty, and have continued to do so ever since.

In addition, the tournament also served as a fundraiser for Hatzolah. For the fifth year in a row the tournament set out and met its goal of raising $10,000.00 through donations, sponsorships and ticket purchases for a raffle that included phenomenal hockey memorabilia, including a Jaromir Jagr jersey and two tickets to a New York Islander contest against the New York Rangers. Sponsors of the day included Crown Trophy of Brooklyn, Nachum Segal Network’s Court Report, Regal Bank of New Jersey, Under 5’10 Menswear, Koncepte Digital Marketing Agency, Nina Eizikovitz of Links Residential, Liquid Capital, W4M Studios and The Jewish Link of New Jersey. A special thank you to sponsor Camp Dovid Hockey Camp, who generously donated a scholarship to the 2019 summer session. All participants walked away with a gift bag complete with a tournament T-shirt, water bottle and various other goodies provided by all of the event sponsors.