Torah Academy of Bergen County (TABC), proud of its successful and competitive hockey program, kicked off the hockey season in style. Last Thursday night, over 200 students and plenty of faculty as well stayed after school for dinner and a night of TABC hockey spirit. Donning their new Storm winter scarves, hundreds (including parents, friends and alumni) packed into the newly renovated “old” gym to attend the raising of the 2013-14 JV Hockey Championship banner, a banner which has been raised for six years in a row at TABC–no small feat. The sense of achdut and school spirit among students, faculty, parents and alumni was palpable.
The first game was TABC JV Storm versus the Ramaz Rams. After a banner-raising ceremony celebrating last year’s incredible accomplishment, player introductions, and a special performance of the anthems by the TABC band, excitement filled the air as the puck dropped and the TABC JV Storm began its quest for an unprecedented seventh straight JV hockey championship.
With only seven returning sophomores, Coach Norm Blumenthal’s team does not have as much experience as it has had in previous years. Spectators wondered if the sophomores would step up and lead the way. Could any of the freshmen make an immediate impact? Is a seventh straight championship realistic?
It soon became obvious that Ramaz came to play. Ramaz had a few great scoring opportunities, but thanks to the stellar play of TABC goalie Solly Weiser, the game remained scoreless. With four minutes left in the 1st period, TABC was able to draw a penalty. The Storm’s ever formidable power play went right to work. Sure enough, freshman phenom Akiva Weider blasted a slap shot past the Ramaz goalie for the crucial first goal of the game. The teams went back to their respective locker rooms with TABC up 1-0 as the packed gym at TABC felt confident that this season would start right where it left off last season.
The 2nd period began with each team putting pressure on the other. Haadad from Ramaz was brilliant all night but just couldn’t get one past Weiser. TABC sophomores Justin Goldfman, Josh Wertenteil, and Josh Lieman were flying all over the place. Freshmen Ephraim Tiger and Yitzy Kopstick were buzzing around the net. However, the Ramaz goalie pushed aside all that TABC threw at him.
Five minutes into the 2nd, TABC struck again. Freshman Ari Solomon won a face-off straight back to sophomore defenseman Elie Shapiro, who rifled the ball top shelf for a commanding 2-0 lead. However, Ramaz was not about to roll over for TABC to trample them. Just a minute later, Ramaz cut the lead on a deflected shot. Showing off its depth, the 4th line offense, comprised of TABC freshmen Yehuda Saks and Romi Harcsztark, showed that it could easily adapt to the level of play in high school. Just 25 seconds after the Ramaz goal, the Storm connected on a beautiful goal as Harcsztark swiftly slid the ball to Saks, who calmly one-timed the ball right through the five-hole to regain the two goal lead. However, Ramaz quickly cut the lead back to one goal with yet another deflected goal past the solid play of Solly Weiser. As the 2nd period was winding down, it looked like the teams would head to their locker rooms in a one goal game. However, yet another freshman, Yonatan Sturm, delighted the crowd and put the Storm ahead 4-2 on a gorgeous goal, assisted by Elie Shapiro.
Any thought of a Ramaz comeback was pushed aside as TABC sophomore Zachary Rothenberg broke out in a 2-on-1 just two minutes into the critical 3rd period. With the confidence of a star, Rothenberg waited and slid a shot past the sliding Ramaz goalie for a commanding 5-2 lead. Great defense by sophomore Jacob Rosenfeld and freshman Ezra Rotblat enabled TABC to thwart any attempt of pressure from Ramaz. As the buzzer sounded, Coach Norm had to be pleased with the effort of his young team. With three goals by freshmen and consistent play from all his players, the Storm’s quest for another championship started off on the right foot.
But the night was still young! TABC Varsity Hockey played next, opening its season against the solid Rams of Ramaz looking to rebound from a disappointing semifinal overtime loss to end last season. With star defensemen Aryeh Berman and Alex Malech and brilliant goalies Alex Kalb and Rami Levine and Buddy Wise all returning as seniors, the Storm certainly has the leadership and experience to make a deep run in the playoffs. Considering that this year the team picked up Ari Fuchs (2013-14 JV playoff MVP), Shua Naor, Yair Knoller, and Daniel Levy (2012-13 JV playoff MVP), its expectations are considerably high.
However, as the puck dropped the Storm was initially thoroughly outplayed by Ramaz. With TABC unable to get anything going on offense, the Rams controlled play from the get go. Late in the 1st period, a Ramaz defenseman was able to blast a shot past Kalb for a 1-0 lead. The crowd was silent and the Storm players didn’t know what hit them. Storm coach Mo Fuchs was cool and collected as the Storm headed to the locker room.
The fans were treated to a special intermission show as the storm Pee-wee team, consisting of younger siblings of current players, played in the first-ever TABC Pee Wee game. Sixth graders Zachary Levy, Yaakov Saks, and Avraham Glatter were joined by 7th graders Yonatan Naor, Ving Levy, and Jake Rothenberg for a shootout thriller!
The Storm came out flying in the 2nd period. Yair Knoller, one of the top scorers that the league has seen in quite some time, scored a thrilling goal as he rifled the ball to the top corner of the net. TABC kept the pressure on until two-sport star Shua Naor was able to blast a shot past the Ramaz goalie for a 2-1 lead.
The 3rd period began and the intensity continued. With the TABC gym packed, the game had a playoff like feel to it. Ramaz took two penalties, which they would come to regret. Sure enough, Alex Malech, with perhaps the hardest shot in the league, was finally able to rifle one in for a 3-1 lead, before Ari Fuchs matched him with a blast of his own for a 4-1 lead.
The game and evening ended with TABC scoring a commanding 4-1 lead and a sweep of the doubleheader. TABC fans went home happy!
By Sariel Malitzky & Sharon Rifkind