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Yeshiva League Hockey Preview

This past week marked the beginning of the 2018-2019 fall/winter sports season. As we embark on yet another journey toward an eventful March, New Jersey expects to be at the epicenter of both the hockey and basketball worlds. Over the next two weeks, we will preview the JV and varsity leagues in both sports and give you the inside scoop on what to expect over the next five months of Western Conference action.

Varsity Hockey

We are only seven months removed from an all-west battle that saw SAR emerge triumphant over Frisch and after what has transpired in the JV world over the past two years, the odds are overwhelming that the upcoming season will bring more of the same.

Frisch has found itself on the wrong end of the last two varsity finals, but hopes to buck the trend this year, as the team that successfully won the 2017 JV final takes the court for the 2018-2019 season. This year’s squad features six seniors who have known nothing but a season ending in either a finals win or loss. The backbones of that group are defensemen Aryeh Bloom and Josh Levine, forward J.J. Coren and 2017 JV finals MVP goaltender Isaac Markovitz. The experience of the four, especially Markovitz, having taken over the varsity job last year as a junior and starting the championship in a losing effort, will be key early in the year while the junior class finds its footing. That shouldn’t take long, though, as the stellar underclassmen led by Elliot Eisner, Jason Alter and Max Baruch came within inches of repeating as JV champions last season and should be incredible assets for this group come February.

If there is a team that can throw a monkey wrench into Frisch’s plans, it’s the TABC Storm. The 2017-2018 season ended unceremoniously for the Storm, being shut out at home to Frisch in the semifinals. The loss was yet another stain at the hands of its cross-county rivals who have brought an end to each season that this year’s senior class has participated in. The Storm expect this year to be different and with the lineup that they possess, their expectations may very well be attainable. The group headlined by seniors Akiva Hain and Yechiel Keiser feature plenty of depth on both ends of the floor, especially when joined by the junior class, fresh off of the 2018 JV championship. The group will bring with it Charles Gibber who challenged the record books with his spectacular JV seasons, while Yonatan Naor and Natan Rifkind and new transfer Dovid Rozehzadeh add much-needed depth on the defensive end that already features Keiser and E.T. Dubin. Offensively, Shlomo Gellman moves up to join his brother Avraham, who, along with the senior line of Eli Schiff and Elli Spinowitz expect to form the bulk of the major assault on the varsity west.

Despite not being considered favorites to win the division, it would be a mistake to fall asleep on the SAR Sting. The defending champions have lost the core of last year’s squad, but still retain few extremely important pieces, starting in net with the return of goalie Henri Kolb. With a championship victory already under his belt, Kolb walks into this year as arguably the top goalie in the league and will be able to keep the Sting in games in what will be the hardest schedule of any team this season. Looking to make his efforts stand will be seniors Ethan Green, Jonny Haims, Louis Tuchman and Ayton Waxman. They will, however, need to rely on the juniors to fill their depths and will look immediately to Adam Freilich, Alex Levy and top defenseman Adam Nayowitz to step in and fill the massive shoes of last year’s dominating graduates. The Sting are talented enough to finish in the west top three but with six games against TABC, Frisch, DRS and HAFTR, four of which come within the first month of the season, whether or not they actually get there will come down to just how close Kolb keeps them in net.

Beyond those three, it will be a mad scramble for the last two playoff spots as the league will only send five from each division to the postseason.

In the thick of things will be the Kushner Cobras who will narrowly missed out on the playoffs last year, but will return most of their squad for the upcoming season. Seniors Jordan Sherris, all-star Sidney Feiertag and Matthew Plotzker are back, along with top-goalie Nathan Orbach, competing in his second varsity season. Joining the team will be a small but talented group of juniors that include Josh Lando and Drew Rabinowitz who will help round out the roster with an eye toward extended February play.

The JEC Thunder will also look to expect a boost from their junior goaltender in the fight for the postseason. Dov Weitz will step into the role for a team that will look to depend on contributions from both classes to have a successful season. Seniors Sammy Simcha, Shea Cornick and Netanel Schmutter will be joined by juniors Aaron Silver and Ben-Zion Kapustin to form a nucleus with the ability to make a run toward a playoff berth.

The Ramaz Rams will look to turn around last year’s disappointing four-win season and will need to lean heavily on its underclassmen to accomplish the task. Juniors Eddie Catton and Joseph Kaplan both have a year of varsity experience after playing last year as sophomores. They rejoin Jack Ottensoser and Michael Perl among a group of holdovers from last year, while Mark Dweck and Isaac Shertz bring up a slim group from last year’s JV squad.

The MTA Lions will look to capitalize on last year’s third seed finish. Seniors Yaron Kahan and Daniel and Ephraim Landa hope to bring MTA back to the playoffs, but will find themselves fairly thin in offensive help. Juniors Yosef Sullivan and Aaron Borgen should factor into the Lion lineup but will need to hope for some help and some bounces, facing a difficult schedule.

The Hillel Heat will round out the division, hopeful to build for the future with a group that expects to have a good amount of experience over the next few seasons.

JV Hockey

Much like the varsity championship, it was an all-Western Conference affair that capped off the JV season in March. Unlike the varsity, it went a step further, and was an all-New Jersey battle, as the TABC Storm avenged their 2017 finals loss with a shutout win over the Frisch Cougars. The expectation heading into the 2018-2019 season is that we may very well be in line for yet another New Jersey vs. New Jersey battle in Lawrence Middle School.

Depending on which New Jersey county you live in, you’ll likely have a very different opinion on who the top team in the JV league is. If you live in Bergen County, the obvious answer is the defending champion TABC. The Storm return a stellar core of last year’s team including the top defensive tandem of Baruch Shmuckler- Karpov and Eli Blumenfeld as well as arguably the most prolific player in the league in Zachary Levy. The Storm are a well-balanced team with playmakers on both ends of the field and will lean heavily on the experience and depth of their sophomores. The only question mark for the Storm will be in net. Following a record setting season in net by Charles Gibber, the Storm will need to find a successor. Although, if whomever it may be can put up half of what Gibber did last year, the Storm may find themselves lifting another trophy in March.

If you live in Orange County, however, the obvious answer is the Kushner Cobras. The Cobras are led by a sophomore class that is arguably the most complete class in all of JV this year. The team returns seven players that rank at, or near the top in their position. Offensively, the squad leader is Max Orbach, flanked by brother Ben Orbach and Eitan Kaynan, while defensively, the group is headed up by A.J. Keiser, Jesse Koppel and Jason Singer. The difference make for the Cobras, however, may be Itai Merlin, the top goalie in the conference and arguably the best in the league. If Merlin can build on last year’s solid freshman campaign, the Cobras can return to the dominating success that the group had as eighth graders and bring Kushner its first high school hockey trophy, as well.

Not looking to be outshone, the other Bergen County team, the Frisch Cougars hope to ride their well-balanced roster into March Madness. No stranger to Lawrence Middle School, the reigning three-time finalists will use their battle tested-sophomore class to set the table for another run at the championship. Leading the way, Jacob Borenstein and Eitan Danzer, will man the back-line as one of the more fundamentally sound defensive units on either side of the standings board. If the offense can follow suit and any or all of the goalie options that the Cougars have this year pan out as effectively as Evan Solomon did for them last year, a trip to a fourth- straight JV final is not too far out of reach.

The SAR Sting, as they usually are, will be in the mix for a playoff spot out west. Sophomore Isaac Gazal will step between the pipes at the rink in Riverdale, joining Boaz Kahn and Ethan Marom as the backbone of this SAR squad. Looking to make a difference this year will be freshman Solomon Tuchman, who will be expected to help bolster the Sting defensive line from the moment the ball drops.

The Ramaz Rams will hope to improve on last year’s winless season and get back to the JV postseason. Helping them do so will be top sophomore talent Jeremy Baruch and Eitan Linhart. How Baruch goes, will essentially be how the Rams go, however, in order to do more than simply have a shot at the postseason, Ramaz will need to rely on the lessons that its fellow sophomores learned during last year’s trying season.

The JEC Thunder will have the exact opposite type of roster this year. Only four players return from last year. Sophomores Shmaryahu Butler, Josh Krause, Avi Moskowitz and Yehuda Ostrov will all play a role, but will need major help from their freshman class that will bring it Tani Rosenfeld, who will look to follow in the long line of dominance that his brothers showed at MTA over the last decade.

MTA faces a similar situation, returning only five members of last year’s team. Of that group, Gavriel Pudell will look to lead a young crew to the postseason, but will need to lean heavily on what should be promising freshman class.

By Elliot Weiselberg

Elliot Weiselberg is the host of the Court Report, the voice of the JM in the AM Sports Update for Nachum Segal airing on Tuesdays around 7:20 a.m., and a regular hockey contributor to the Yeshiva League Pass account on Instagram.

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