April 8, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
April 8, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

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

Jewish 14 and Under Avalanche Team Wins NJ Ice Hockey Title

Every April, hundreds of youth hockey teams are formed to begin practicing for the upcoming season that starts after the summer. Organizations have tryouts and then divide the players into appropriate levels of play on various teams. This past spring, the NJ Avalanche formed a team not based on skill but rather based on a common thread between all of the players and their families. Their one request – we cannot and will not play any games on Shabbat or Yom Tov. With a rigorous schedule of over 40 games, it was not an easy request. However, the directors and staff at the Avalanche organization decided to work together with the team to make sure they can join the New Jersey Youth Hockey League (NJYHL) and not have to miss or forfeit any games due to Shabbat. The NJYHL is comprised of hundreds of teams all based in the state of New Jersey. The team is comprised of players ranging from seventh to ninth grades from all of the local yeshivot. Noam, Yavneh, Moriah, Frisch, MTA, SAR, Ramaz and TABC can all boast of at least one player from their school on this unique ice hockey team.

Over the course of the season, this Avalanche team took the league by surprise. They quickly earned the reputation of being one of the top teams in their division after continually beating every opponent they faced. All of their home games were scheduled after Shabbat ended, and their travel games were played on Sunday, sometimes travelling over two hours to play their scheduled games. By the end of the season, the Avalanche team finished with a 41-2 record and clinched first place in their division, earning a bye in the first round of the playoffs that were held this past weekend at the Ice Vault in Wayne.

Although the Avalanche were able to work around Shabbat for their regular season schedule, it was quite the opposite to make the playoff schedule work. Their first round game was scheduled to be played on Shabbat afternoon, and the team made it quite clear to the league that they would sooner forfeit than play the game at that time. Because of the amount of teams in the playoffs as well as the limited amount of rink slots, the ability for the league to make the change, and the outlook for the Avalanche team to play the game, looked bleak.

“Despite the fact that we were the #2 seed going into the playoffs, the league initially refused to make the scheduling change to allow us to participate” said Zvi Rudman, team manager and parent of Asher Rudman, a key player in the Avalanche’s potent offense. “They basically told us that if we make an exception for you, we would have to make an exception for every organization that has an issue with their scheduled slot.”

However, the team as well as the Avalanche organization would not give up. They continued to try to make the time change, and after multiple emails back and forth and several pleas to the league commissioners, they were finally given the news that the league would make an exception in this case and change the start time to after Shabbat ended.

With the playoffs now possible, the team was on a mission. In the first round, they played a powerful team from Toms River, that had beaten them earlier in the season. Rushing to the rink after Shabbat, many of the boys still in their shul clothes from the day, they quickly got changed and went to work. In what was possibly the most exciting and nerve wracking game for any of these players (and parents) to ever participate in, the score at the end of regulation was 2-2 after a ferocious defensive battle on both sides and goalie Eitan Rosenblatt (Frisch, ninth) making acrobatic save after save to keep the game tied. The game would head to overtime where it would be played three on three sudden death until someone wins. Both teams limped onto the ice exhausted from the hard fought regulation battle and the score remained scoreless for the first overtime period. The Avalanche team would not give up and came out flying to start the second period. About two minutes into the second overtime, the Avs broke in on a two on one and would not waste the opportunity. On a beautiful feed from Gabriel Hornblass (SAR, ninth grader and the NJYHL record holder for goals in a season), Ezra Nussbaum (MTA, ninth) put the puck behind the goaltender for the game winner. Chants of M-T-A filled the arena in his honor like the days of old.

Having secured their spot in the finals, the Avalanche team came in with confidence the next day. After falling behind 1-0 in the opening minute of the game, the team went on a tear and never looked back. They went on to score five straight goals and played a perfect defensive game. The game ended with the ultimate hockey celebration, a pile on top of the goalie until the coach quickly called them all for the most beautiful tradition in all of sports, the handshake line.

Congratulations to all of the players, families and friends who followed this team’s journey throughout the season. A special thank you goes out to the Avalanche organization who made these memories possible for this team as well as to the Avalanche coaching staff Stephen Ritter and Mike Kennedy who worked with these boys all season long. From the onset, the coaches would take nothing less than 100% from the boys.

State champions—not bad for a team of yeshiva boys!! Next stop, districts tournament to face off against the winners of Pennsylvania, Delaware and Connecticut.

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles