Philadelphia, Pennsylvania has a significant place in U.S. history. It is best known as the birthplace of the United States, where our forefathers met, discussed and formed a new country. It was also the nation’s capital for a short period of time, as well as home to one of the most famous boxers ever to enter the ring, Rocky Balboa. Additionally, Philly is the home to one of the most competitive ice hockey tournaments on the East Coast and attracts some of the most prestigious hockey organizations to participate. This past weekend, three shomer Shabbos teams ranging from kids in third grade all the way to high school participated in the tournament representing the North Jersey Avalanche, a local hockey organization that has allowed their teams to compete in the Atlantic Hockey Federation while working their schedules around Shabbat and Yom Tov. The teams were represented by players from many of the local yeshiva elementary schools and high schools.
With Shabbat starting early, all teams had to play two games early on Friday to be able to be finished and back in the hotel before sundown. After two round robin games, the teams all shut down and focused on a beautiful Shabbos spent together with beautiful davening, divrei Torah, singing and even a guest lecturer. Chazzan Aryeh Schwebel led a beautiful rendition of the prayer for our chayalim and Tehillim were recited in support of our brothers and sisters in Israel. The group was also treated to a first-hand account of the situation in Israel from parent Danny Ottensoser who landed Friday morning and came straight to the tournament from a week long chizuk mission. As one of the Peewee players, Levi Rudman, commented, “The hockey is a lot of fun, but spending Shabbos together with my teammates and friends is just as fun.”
The youngest team made up of kids born in 2013 and 2014 (Squirts) came in not knowing what to expect. After their early success in local league play they came into the tournament with confidence but hesitance, not knowing what type of competition they would be facing. During round robin play, the team came out with a 3-0 record, winning their final game by enough of a margin to clinch a spot in the championship game. Their dominance continued through the championship game with a convincing 6-0 win, showing the rest of the league why they are one of the favorites to win the state title this year. The team was led by forward Paul Falkenstein (WTA fifth) who finished as not only the leading scorer in the division but in the entire tournament with 16 goals and two assists in four games. Speedster Oscar Lichtman (Moriah fifth)and blue liner Jack Pomerantz (Yavneh fifth) as well as goalie Liam Press (Yavneh fifth) were rock solid throughout the whole tournament with timely goals and big defensive plays to cap off an overall dominant performance and a tournament victory.
The Peewees made up of birth years 2011 and 2012 came in with a bit more tournament experience. Their explosive offense led by Albie Hornblass (Moriah seventh), Max Pomerantz (Yavneh seventh), James Gomberg (Ramaz seventh), and Jacob Ghermezian (YNJ seventh), combined with their stellar blue liners Levi Rudman (Moriah sixth), Uriel Kurz (YNJ fifth) and Max Boim (Yavneh sixth) and their brick wall in net Nate Ottensoser (Park East seventh) made them a force to be reckoned with. The boys came out flying from the start and never looked back. They handedly beat their opponents from Maine and Red Bank, New Jersey during the round robin play and would end up playing an all star team from Connecticut in the finals. After falling behind quickly 2-0 to start the game, the team never gave up and exploded for five goals late in the game to take the championship banner home with them.
The Bantams (birth years 2009 and 2010) came in ranked as one of the top teams in their division based on league play. Led by the potent offense of superstar Noah Schwebel (Moriah eighth), Asher Wasserman (Moriah eighth), Gabriel Kahn (Moriah eighth), and all-star defensemen Mathew Helwani (Moriah eighth) and Aaron Feldman (Frisch ninth), the team was virtually unstoppable all tournament long. In one of the most dramatic championship games ever played, the team fell behind 2-0 early in the game to a team from Rochester, New York during a sloppy first period. However, after some encouraging words from their coach the team fought back to tie the game at two, on goals from Feldman and Wasserman at the end of regulation. With a scoreless overtime period, the champion would be decided by a shootout. With a packed house filled with fans of both teams the silence was deafening before each player took their shootout shot. After seven rounds of shots both teams were still tied. In comes Elly Younger who, if able to beat the acrobatic goalie from Rochester with a breakaway, would win the game and bring home the championship. And Elly did not disappoint. With a brilliant backhanded move, she managed to put the puck in the back of the net and instantly was labeled a legend in the books of shomer Shabbos Avalanche hockey by single handedly winning the game and championship for her teammates.
Congratulations to all players, coaches and family members on all teams with their well deserved success. More important than winning, all of the participants managed to make a Kiddush Hashem both on and off the ice. A big thank you to the NJ Avalanche hockey organization for allowing the children the opportunity to play the sport they love without compromising their religious beliefs. Yasher Koach to all of the players, coaches, parents, grandparents and fans of the shomer Shabbat teams!