September 29, 2023
September 29, 2023

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Frisch Cougars Hockey Takes to the Ice

Ice hockey has officially entered the yeshiva high school world. Frisch broke the barrier and successfully started a program that is here to stay. The team is led by Frisch parents and hockey enthusiasts, Ralph Abecassis, Yossi Schenker, Michael Fientuch, and David Frielich.

Many Jewish kids from the area have already been playing ice hockey at The Englewood Field Club for quite some time. A core of parents wanted to Frisch to start its own program. This will not be the first time Frisch has started an ice hockey team. In the early 2000s, Frisch had a team, but it was short lived due mostly to financial issues.

Mr. Abecassis was very adamant about making this team happen. He said of kids who have played up until high school, “Why should the kids have to hang up their skates?” There were enough players to start a team, and it was time. Once people started hearing about the team, volunteers starting coming forward. Rabbi Joshua Wald, Assistant Principal at Frisch, was a big part of the team coming together, pulling the necessary strings to make the team happen. People in the surrounding hockey community were excited and ready to help start this team. Coaches and staff from travel programs, such as The Englewood Field Club, NJ Avalanche, Montclair Hockey Club and even newspaper writers, all chipped in with their advice and enthusiasm. They even wanted to come and help evaluate kids for tryouts. Although there were no tryouts, due to the perfect amount of kids, it was a nice gesture. It was amazing how the hockey world just opened up and was ready to help in any way it could.

One issue in starting the team was finding ice time at a place that could accommodate an observant team’s schedule. Saturday evenings were one night that the students could play to avoid conflicts with other sports commitments. The Mackay Park ice rink in Englewood had some available time, and the team jumped on it.

The players all have previous ice hockey experience. Many players have already played on teams such as Kodiak, Ice cats, Englewood Field Club, NJ Avalanche, and House teams at the Ice House. Everyone was excited once the team started and the first practices began. The coaching staff is phenomenal; they helped turn a bunch of kids that had some experience in ice hockey– some more than others–into a real team that could compete.

The team was still not expected to win much, but the players felt that they could at least compete. Winning or losing, most kids were just happy to be on the ice. Feeling the wind in your face as you glide on the ice, and the crisp sound of the pucks hitting your stick, is one of the better feelings in this world. Although doubted, winning is the only thing Frisch did. Although the team’s members might not be as skilled as the other teams they played, all the excitement turned into a surge of energy and the team just outworked its opponents.

The first game was against Kearny High School, which Frisch won 9-1. Goals were scored by Benji Fientuch (3), Aaron Abecassis (2), Yisroel Solomon (1), Zach Rosenblatt (1), Joe Tropp (1), and Jacob Bach (1). The second game was a much closer game vs. Riverbank, a talented team from Manhattan. Frisch went on to win 6-4 in an exciting game that showed a great effort by the entire team. Goals were contributed by Benjy Fientuch (2), Aaron Abecassis (2), and Jacob Bach (2), backstopped by outstanding freshman goalie, Charlie Frielich. The game was also special as the rink at Riverbank State Park and MacKay ice rink are both recipients of a special program called “New York Rangers Assist,” supported by Chase, where the New York Rangers give back to the community to help local arenas. Programs like this help increase access to the game and keep hockey growing in our communities.

While Frisch may currently be the only yeshiva high school with an ice hockey team, there is a growing Jewish hockey community. In pretty much every yeshiva high school you will find kids who can and want to play. It will not, and should not, be long until other yeshiva high schools start their own programs, as there has been talk of starting a league so more kids can play. This is just the beginning of Jewish Ice Hockey in America. Hopefully, this is only the beginning. Perhaps, it will only be a matter of time before Frisch joins other New Jersey high schools in competing for the state championship.

By Jacob Bach

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