Thursday, March 30, 2023

It was a memorable night, observing one of the best-played Yeshiva League championship games one will ever witness. Two longtime rivals, the SAR Sting and Frisch Cougars, were destined to face one another a final time for many of the seniors on both teams. With Frisch accruing 25 regular season points in 14 games, and SAR 19 points, Frisch was the proverbial favorite. And in the regular season, SAR lost twice to Frisch, but both were in one-goal games, including an overtime defeat. Frisch made it to the title game on the heels of beating HANC and DRS, while SAR bested YDE and TABC.

The senior superstars on both squads first squared off in high school as playoff rivals in March 2020, when SAR’s JV team defeated Frisch in overtime the night before Covid shut down SAR. Without a season a year later, the traditional powerhouses faced off again last year, with Frisch exacting revenge and beating SAR in the semis, 4-3, en route to their championship win. The stage was set for the 2023 edition, conjuring memories of Alabama-Clemson’s annual postseason college football bash.

With the neutral site game being hosted by DRS, the participating schools’ rabid fan bases split evenly on either side of the rink. Students were chanting from the opening drop of the ball to the final goal. The SAR side was quiet early on, as Frisch scored three quick goals to take a commanding 3-0 lead with just a few minutes left in the first period. Frisch senior forward Jakey Feit scored the opening goal and assisted on the next goal. But SAR’s resilience was evident the entire night. Legendary defenseman Steve Nayowitz fired a memorable slap shot, with the speed of the ball briefly landing in the net before shooting back out in less than a second. Anyone who blinked at that moment would have missed it. With a 3-1 deficit heading into the first intermission, SAR was not ready to concede.

The second period belonged to the Sting. SAR’s back-to-back penalty kills shifted the momentum considerably, and it was clear that the tide was turning. Enter renowned junior Asher Rudman, a forward from New Jersey, who scored goals on back-to-back shifts, knotting the game up at three apiece before the period concluded. Just as importantly, after an inauspicious beginning to the game, SAR goalie Jed Konovitch found his groove and his confidence was picking up steam.

In the third, every shot on goal by both teams toyed with the hearts of the hundreds in attendance. Frisch scored a fourth goal, and its offensive onslaught was keen on not being stymied. But Konovitch would not yield again to the Cougar rush. Despite impressive shifts by Frisch forward Ethan Alter, weaving his way through the Sting and attacking with force, Konovitch and his teammates stayed strong. About halfway through the final stanza, uber-talented SAR forward Eytan Krausz scored an acrobatic goal and the threat of overtime between the rivals, was once again a real possibility. Indeed, no team scored in the final minutes of the third period and sudden death was beckoning.

Frisch dominated overtime from the opening minutes of the period, but Konovitch was resolute in his quest to hoist the championship trophy. He thwarted shot after shot, most in point-blank range. It was a performance that would have made Patrick Roy, Martin Brodeur and Andrei Vasilevskiy grin if they would have been fortunate enough to step foot in the gym on Sunday night. With just a minute to go in the extra frame, a hero needed to emerge. And that turned out to be senior Gabe Hornblass of SAR, who was writhing in agony just weeks earlier with a serious knee injury. Hornblass returned ahead of schedule for the postseason and despite not being 100%, there was no way he was going to miss the championship game. In a Hollywood ending, he took the final shot of the 2022-2023 floor hockey season and it slipped into the goal for the championship clincher. Five years after capturing its last varsity championship win, the SAR Sting lifted the trophy again. Rudman was named game MVP and his incredible teammates, Konovitch, Hornblass, Krausz, Nayowitz, Ari Fenster, Morrison Dolfman, Judah Hain, Joe Shaykin, Micah Gazal, Charlie Reich and more, were all buoyant smiles and tears of jubilation. Congratulations to both teams on completing an extraordinary season.

Michael Courtney is the director of College Counseling at SAR High School, where has worked since 2007. He also coaches the JV boys basketball and varsity boys softball teams at SAR.

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