As the reigning champs, it would have been nice if the Israeli Stars of David had advanced to the title game of the Canadian Multicultural Hockey Championships (CMHC).
Still better if they’d won their fourth championship in five years. But it was not to be, as an undermanned Davids fell 5-2 to the Nubian Kings in the tournament’s premier division semi-finals. With key players either unavailable or injured – particularly its veteran leadership – the Stars of David didn’t quite have what it takes to repeat, said the team’s general manager Alex Voihanski.
The Stars of David never recovered from a four-goal onslaught in the first five minutes of the semi-final – including two goals allowed while enjoying a man advantage, he said.
“We were behind the 8-ball before you could blink,” he said. “We took it to them after that and outscored them 2-1.”
The Kings, though big and talented, have lost to the Davids three years in a row coming into this winter’s tournament, Voihanski added.
Still and all, the Davids did manage to record a 3-1 round robin record and make it to the final four of the tournament’s premier elite division for the fifth year in a row.
The Davids bring speed and smarts to the event, but it was not enough to overcome the absence of key performers from previous years. Stacey Britstone, who played for the Oshawa Generals and Plymouth Whalers as a younger man, was unavailable due to recurring knee problems. He’s been the Davids’ captain. Former assistant captain Alon Eizenman, who played professionally in France, was likewise not available. In past tourneys, Eizenman centred the team’s number 1 line, played on the power play, killed penalties and provided the steadying influence on the ice and in the dressing room, Voihanski stated.
Also missing from previous winning teams was goaltender Kevin Kline, a former NCAA division 1 netminder who has moved to Vancouver, and goalie Sal Cutillo, who has been a tournament MVP.
Adding to the team’s woes was the injury after the round robin to Adam Weinberg, a first line winger and the team captain.
“It was a huge loss,” said Voihanski. With our regulars gone, “we became a young team very quickly.” The Stars of David, which have blended youth and experience to become the team to beat, missed its veteran leadership.
Shawn Frank, who played for the Barrie Colts, ended up the second leading scorer in the tournament while Noah Schwartz, who played for the Hamilton Red Wings and “had a cup of coffee” with the London Knights, rounded out the team’s top line.
Another of the team’s top players, Zach Sternberg, who plays defence for Lake Superior State, had to return to school prior to the elimination round. Sternberg was clearly the best defenceman in the tournament, said Voihanski.
Despite the early exit, there were other bright lights for the Davids: Adam Corrin made his debut on the team. He’s a “smooth player, defensively oriented who has good hands,” Voihanski said. He played for Colgate University in the first division of the NCAA.
“For the first time ever, we had an Arab Israeli on the team, Andrew Wakileh. His parents are Christian Arabs from Israel.”
A former captain of the Markham Waxers, Wakileh plays with Voihanski in a men’s league.
“He loved it. A lot of his friends are Jewish,” Voihanski said.
The team was coached by Akiva Aaronson and Ziv Zukier.