The Metropolitan Yeshiva High School Hockey League will kick off its Varsity and Junior Varsity seasons this coming week heralding a start to the 2014-2015 Yeshiva League hockey year. Coming off of last year’s All-East varsity championship between defending champion HAFTR and runner-up DRS, the Western Conference schools are looking for retribution and it will start with a familiar name atop the rankings list, while the JV league will feature a new group at the summit for the first time in several years.
In the varsity league, the TABC Storm are the consensus championship pick this year, returning a strong senior squad, including Aryeh Berman and Alex Malech, that played a prominent role in taking HAFTR to overtime in the semifinals last season. Combine that with a junior squad featuring Daniel Levy, Ari Fuchs, Yair Knoller, Calev Minsky and Shua Naor that dominated the JV league last year, en route to the school’s sixth straight Junior Varsity championship, and TABC presents a formidable contender for the champion title. DRS is favored to win out East and HAFTR is not too far behind them.
The Kushner Cobras are also predicted to be a contender this year, fielding a deep squad that contains one of the top offense-defense combinations in seniors Ilan Slonim and Louis Reiz. It will only help their effort to have stellar junior net-minder Jack Reiz between the pipes. The infusion of young talent as a result of fielding only a varsity team will make Kushner an interesting team to watch, given the many looks that they can throw at opponents. Kushner will, however, need to contend with the perennial problem of having to learn two different styles, given that they are only one of two teams to play in an actual rink, as opposed to a typical box gym.
The battle for the third to fifth seeds in the division will be an extremely tight race, especially so given that the league has officially eliminated the 6th playoff spot, meaning that one of Ramaz, SAR, Frisch or MTA, barring an extreme shift, will not make the playoffs. The Ramaz Rams, return with a core of solid seniors, joined as well by junior Alex Glaubach playing in his 2nd year of varsity. SAR will be rejuvenated by the return of two of its talented players, Daniel Best and Josh Weiss, after a year off and an off-year for the team, having missed the playoffs. Frisch will also field its own offense-defense power combo with sure-shot offense man Odi Haramati and stellar defenseman Mikey Rubin. The big issue standing in the way of Frisch’s success this year will be the toughest schedule in the Western Division. MTA will feature a solid defensive group in Ami Rosenfeld and Zev Markowitz, but will need to hope for secondary scoring to help out offense man Ezra Quint in order to keep from having their bubble burst come February.
In JV, the West will have quite a shakeup after seeing TABC at the top of the mountain for the past six years. The top JV team in the West looks to be a strong Frisch Cougar team that, like TABC varsity, returns an extremely talented upper-classman squad and joins it with an even greater talented incoming group. Leading the charge will be sophomores Yehuda Brinn, Bryan Alter, and Johnny Newman, who will attempt to lead a top-3 freshman group containing prominent Moriah and Yavneh stars Joe Tropp and Benjy Feintuch into battle to contend with the consensus top-ranked Rambam team from the East.
Right behind them will be a young but talented SAR Sting group, bringing in most of last year’s junior high championship team, including the junior high league’s top scorer, Gordie Kolb, and top defensemen Shua Friedman and Jason Burian to complement the JV league’s hottest scorer last year, Solomon Freilich. Inexperience on the JV level aside, this group could very easily take over the top spot from Frisch if the Cougars decide to take a game off.
The six-time defending champion TABC Storm will have a bit of a challenge this year, but have thrived off of being the underdog in the past. Coach Norm Blumenthal has made a living off of getting the most out of his squad and will need to do it once more to bring the school “lucky number seven.” The group will be led by sophomores Zack Rothenberg and Jacob Rosenfeld and will be joined by freshmen Akiva Weider and Yonatan Sturm, key contributors to junior high runner-up Noam’s and champion SAR’s, respectively, postseason runs last year.
Ramaz and JEC should be the last two in playoff spots for the JV West. Ramaz will pack an offensive punch with sophomores Ollie Haddad and Jacob Smigel, but will need to play strong all season due to an extremely difficult schedule that pits them in six games against Frisch, SAR, and TABC. Should they falter, they can easily be passed by a JEC team led by top West goaltender Jason Silverstein, who, along with MTA, drew the easiest schedule on the year.
To follow each team’s progress throughout the season, tune in to the Court Report, the Yeshiva League-based talk show, airing at 7 p.m. on Sundays and Tuesdays on the Nachum Segal Network.
Elliot Weiselberg is the host of the Court Report as well as the voice of the JM in the AM Sports Update for Nachum Segal airing on Tuesdays around 7:20 AM. Elliot has served in numerous capacities including referee, analyst and commentator, and he currently coaches Flatbush JV and Varsity as well as the NY Junior High defending champion Har Torah Hat Trix.
By Elliot Weiselberg