Herzliya emerges as Israeli National League Champions
- Lionel Gaffen/Fotomix
In its first year of activity Herzliya already shines on Israeli hockey capturing league title
In the final playoff games held at the Canada Center in Metulla on Friday, March 27, 2009. Bat Yam Piranhas played off against the HC Metulla team in the opening game for the 3rd place- bronze medallion, while HC Herzliya and HC Ma'alot battled it out for the League Championship.
The first game finished pretty much as expected, with the more experienced Bat Yam squad, led by Avishai Geller with Evgeny Gussin between the pipes winning by a 7-4 margin. The final score was not an indication of the closeness of the game, however, as the Metulla squad battled Bat Yam from the get-go. After the opening period, the score was tied at two. Metulla jumped into a 3-2 lead with a breakaway goal by Yoni Kniter, but the joy was relatively short-lived, as Bat Yam fought back with three tallies in the space of seven minutes. With less than two minutes to go, Metulla notched thier fourth on a power play, leaving it at 5-4 heading into the final stanza
The backbreaker came just at the beginning of the third period, with Geller knotting the prettiest goal of the evening, his second. As he swung down the right side, he received a pin-point pass, and without breaking stride, fired a wrist shot into the upper left hand side of the net, about an inch inside the pipe. The final Bat Yam goal was just the icing on the cake.
After the game, Geller added some insight into the strategy behind his team's win. "They're younger and faster than we are. Our game was to move the puck around more and play a little smarter than them. They had a 3-2 lead at one point, and it was a very close game- they were skating and shooting very well. It was a good, clean game."
When asked about this year's prospects at the World's- the IIHF World Championships, Division II, Geller stated," Our goal is to try to win a medal, but our prospects are not great; we hope to win a few games and ultimately to avoid relegation. It'll be a tough series this year, as we'll be playing without the Eizenman brothers and Max Birbraer, as far as I know."
The Final, with Ma'alot coming in as the odds-on favorites, turned into somewhat of a slugfest, with Herzliya taking the championship by a whopping 6-1 margin.
Ma'alot jumped into a 1-0 lead at the 12:55 mark, with Vlad Kosolapov netting the goal, and while it looked as though Ma'alot would be off and running; this turned out to be their only tally in a very hard-checking and at times, a downright dirty game.
A number of minutes later, Marek Lebedev notched his first, of two on a power play, and the opening frame ended tied at one a piece.
With less than seven minutes to go in the middle period, Lebedev fired in his second on a power play that had two Ma'alot players sitting in the penalty box. Not long afterwards, Lebedev was given a game misconduct for a flagrant foul.
At the beginning of the final stanza, Evgeny Margulis made it 3-1, putting Ma'alot into a hole, and three minutes later, Artium Korotin knotted his only goal, although he assisted on two others. [ Herzliya controlled much of the play with superior stick handling and penetration, which began to manifest itself more and more in the third period, to the increasing frustration of the Ma'alot team ] A minute later, Sergei Belo was hauled down on a breakaway, and had a chance to close the gap with a penalty shot- which could have revitalized Ma'alot -he muffed his shot. Ivan Maklakov tallied the final two goals, as the fight just drained out of the Ma'alot team, as time ran out.
Sergei Matin commented that the Ma'alot team breakdown began to occur after the quick goal at the beginning of the third period, from which they never recovered. He also thought that if Belo had managed to score on the penalty shot, it could have turned the game around.
The League Champions have earned the right to take part in the International Ice Hockey Federation Continental Cup, for League Champions, to be held at the end of September.
Story added on 8th April 2009 at 10:42 GMT
Story submitted by: Davide Tuniz.