By: Marvin Azrak
The statement has been sent and received, as that was well-played by YDE.
There was much anticipation towards the Varsity hockey “Hudson River classic ” between the YDE Thunder and the Hillel Panthers. It didn’t disappoint with Yeshivah Darchei Eretz protecting their home floor with a resounding 9-3 victory.
Seven different YDE Thunder found the back of the twine early and often in the demolition.
The Panthers entered the contest believing their revamped roster could compete with the reigning community champions in YDE. The Thunder were looking to prove otherwise, playing their first hockey game in 649 days at a spirited Thunder dome.
YDE imposed their physical style of play to combat the speed and skill of the Panthers from the jump, with Sammy Franco and Bobby Tawil scoring within the game’s first few minutes to give the Thunder a quick 2-0 lead. Hillel would make adjustments and hound the crease and the point to keep YDE in check for the remainder of the period, in addition to some clutch saves by goaltender Joseph Assa that held the contest from being lopsided quicker than it eventually did. But late in the frame, the hosts struck again when Ikey Dweck won a battle in the corner, which propelled the puck towards the net before being deflected in by Sammy Cohen to increase the advantage to 3-0. The Panthers would luckily find their footing and apply pressure in the offensive zone, but stops by Eddie Khezrie had the Thunder taking the three-goal lead into the locker room.
The physicality of YDE was on full display in the second period, as Sammy Cohen would fire the puck towards the net and hit Ikey Dweck’s stick, who flipped it into the yawning cage to extend the lead to 4-0. The Thunder would continue to pepper the net, but Joseph Assa would have an answer by denying the home crowds pleas for more goals. Finally, with 4:30 remaining, Bobby Tawil and Jack Harary beat both Hillel defenders to the net, with Harary ultimately putting home the rebound off of the Sammy Franco slap shot for another tally. However, careless YDE penalties allowed the Panthers to generate a barrage of scoring opportunities, eventually ruining Eddie Khezrie’s bid for a shutout with a late goal on the man advantage to slice the deficit to 5-1.
The third stanza would have an auspicious beginning with Jacob Escava replacing Assa in goal. The Thunder promptly capitalized with Ikey Dweck going the length of the floor before sending a cross-court pass to Sammy Cohen for the tap-in, before inspiring hustle by Jack Harary behind the net led to Isaac Faham’s first career goal igniting the YDE bench and effectively punctuating the contest allowing Thunder nation to rest easy with a 7-1 lead. With the writing on the wall, coach Joey Saff gave goaltender Eddie Khezrie the rest of the evening off and allowed Joe Salem to make his Yeshivah hockey debut. A goal by captain Joe V Gindi and another Panthers tally on the power play would draw them closer.
Still, a tic-tac-toe marker featuring Ikey Dweck behind the net, Ikey Greenstein at the point, and Bobby Tawil in front for the put away stopped their momentum cold. With the clock winding down, Jacob Sutton would restore the six-goal lead for good by founding pay-dirt and roofing one over Escava to cap off a convincing 9-3 YDE victory.
When the final buzzer sounded, Isaac Faham received the game ball with his teammates showering him with chants of his name. “He deserves it,” said Nehorai Avikasis, “He works hard in practice, and now YDE nation saw the fruits of that.”
Despite the lopsided loss, Hillel remains confident they can conquer Brooklyn’s champions when the teams go eye to eye again in New Jersey, with Joe V Gindi stating, “We’re winning that game. They haven’t seen the best of us yet. We’re unstoppable on our home floor.”
The Panthers had many who made their debuts, including freshman Ezra Assa who played admirably with his heart and hustle on the court in his noticeable Orange sneakers and echoed the same sentiment as his captain by saying, “We didn’t put our best foot forward tonight, but we will make the necessary adjustments and posses a fresh mindset in our rematch. We’re a confident group and know we have what it takes to take these guys down. It won’t be easy, but if we want to prove ourselves and give it our best shot, we need to be all in.”
When these claims reached the Thunder side, Marvin Azrak spoke up by taking the high route.
“Joe is a great captain on and off the court and does an extraordinary job of leading by example. When I hear that, it reinforces the need to leave this affair in Brooklyn when we head into enemy territory.” Marv had experienced the downside of taking a team for granted, even citing a moment earlier in his Yeshivah League career with the Magen David Yeshivah Warriors. “I think it was in 2016 when we demolished Harhatorah 9-3, and then we went to their place a month later thinking another rout was cooking and were ironically embarrassed 9-3.” Our coach never let us hear the end of it, even in the year that followed. That team was good, but we knew we were significantly better than they were.”
For extra credit purposes, Marv finished the reference by saying when the two teams met a year later , MDY notched a shutout on the road and had accomplished the task of getting revenge.
Regardless, tonight’s puck drop signaled YDE hockey was at long last home once again, which isn’t something that went under the team’s nose. “Everyone in our locker room sensed that what we were doing was a privilege and not a right. We went 21 months without having the opportunity, and it gave all of us time to reflect on what it meant to represent your school playing the sport you love,” said Azrak, who also commended the opposition.
“Hillel has the makings of a playoff team. They’re a smart and scrappy group that also has some talented players at their disposal. They make you earn your goals.” “ I wouldn’t let the scoring device you because at times it felt much tighter than it looked on the big board, which likely means we have our work cut out for us when they tinker with their tactics for the battle in Deal.” “We need to tighten up a couple of things on our end as well because we weren’t exactly perfect tonight either.”
But when asked what the key to the blowout victory was, Azrak touted the “experience card” to describe the gap between the two clubs.
“I knew if we stuck to our game plan, we could run it up against them. Those first few minutes set the tone for the festivities when we were aggressive, and they were still trying to get their legs under them. That speaks to the experience our guys have compared to there’s and the hockey IQ generated from playing for or against them in years past.” “Our guys were amped up for this rivalry, and it showed in those first 12 minutes.”
Before the game, much was made on both sides about the Assa’s being on the verge of calling YDE home before deciding to sign with Hillel. “I’m happy they’re flourishing over there in Deal because it’s a great community to be a part of; but it’s funny how things come full circle sometimes, which indeed added more fuel to the fire because it’s a sweeter victory when you take down a neighborhood rival.”
“As of now, we’ve acquired the bragging rights points, but another half is waiting for us down in Jersey that we need to shift our attention to.”
That date for that game has currently not been announced as of yet.