The story has been told over and over again in the sports media, but it’s so good, it bears repeating.
With the Don Mills Flyers AAA minor midgets down 4-1 in the most important game of the year – the final game of the Ontario Hockey League Showcase Cup (OHL Cup) – no one on the bench was panicking.
Yes, the cup, which is awarded to the best minor midget team of 15-year-olds in the province, was on the line. Not to mention the prestige that goes with being undefeated in 84 league and tournament games (excluding one overtime loss), and being considered one of the best teams of all time in that age group.
Despite the pressure and the deficit on the scoreboard, the boys remained positive, confident in their ability to bounce back from any adversity.
And why not? They had done it before during the regular season, as well as the one before, when they lost their starting goalie, Roy Pejcinovski, who was killed last year in a shocking domestic murder.
Pejcinovski was on the minds of all the guys on the bench, said Edward Moskowitz, a forward with the Flyers.
The boys rallied from the 4-1 deficit at the hands of the Toronto Red Wings and pushed the game into overtime, where Shane Wright set up Brennan Othmann for the overtime winner and solidified the team as one of best ever in that age group.
That’s saying a lot, given that the winners of the OHL Cup, not to mention alumni of the Flyers, include plenty of guys who went on to careers in the NHL.
Three Jewish guys were integral members of this year’s team: forwards Cole Eichler, Edward Moskowitz and Ryan Forberg.
In seven OHL Cup games, Moskowitz scored five goals and five assists. Eichler had one goal and two assists, while Forberg was credited with two assists in the seven-game tournament.
The guys had some experience in dealing with adversity, Forberg said. Last year, not long after Pejcinovski’s death, the team had to play in the season’s biggest tournament, the Ontario Hockey Federation (OHF) Championship.
“The entire tournament was dedicated to him and we ended up winning,” Forberg said.
Experiencing the news of Pejcinovski’s death brought the team closer together, he continued. “Our team went through tragedy. We all got really close and bonded together.”
In this year’s OHL Cup championship game, despite trailing going into the third period, “Our coach kept us up,” Forberg said. “We just kept our heads up … our team never quit.”
Moskowitz, who attended Bialik Hebrew Day School until the end of Grade 5, is in his fifth year with the team. The team has improved year over year and had previously won provincial championships in the peewee and bantam divisions, including last year’s OHF Championship.
Moskowitz attributed the team’s success to “a very talented group of kids.… It’s also the way we like each other and treat each other. We’re very close. We’re like a big family and we want the best for each other and I think that’s what makes us so successful.”
Eichler – who played part of the season on a line with Shane Wright, a budding superstar, and Brennan Othmann – was new to the team this season, coming over after four years with the Toronto Nationals. In fact, it was Pejcinovski who initially suggested he try out for the Flyers. Both he and Pejcinovski attended Crestwood Preparatory College and played together on the school’s team.
Eichler already knew Forberg from the Maccabi Canada hockey program. They were teammates on the junior team that competed in summer games throughout North America. Forberg won two gold medals with that team. Eichler, who attended Robbins Hebrew Academy for part of elementary school, won three.
As for the Flyers, even Eichler can’t believe how well the team performed. “I think the talent on the team led to our success. Some of the guys are crazy good,” he said.
When it comes to Pejcinovski, “He’s still in our hearts all the time. We appreciate how good a friend he was to everyone.
“We never take a day off. It could be your last day,” said Eichler, “so make it your best.”