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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Falcon's Nest Notes: Home Sweet Home; Hockey Splits with DRS, Sends Message to the League

Coaches Lefell and Wieselberg give final instructions before taking on DRS
Sandwiched around a 6-0 home win over YDE (and in the aftermath of two lopsided wins over division rivals Magen David and Solomon Schechter of Long Island), the Flatbush Boys Varsity Hockey team played an away and home series with rival and top MYHSAL team DRS High School of HALB. From the start of the season fans and players alike knew that these two games, scheduled so close to each other, would give a real indication about where the Flatbush program is today and what the Falcons’ chances would be for success in the 2014 MYHSAL playoffs. DRS is a perennial league powerhouse and a natural barometer for any program looking to make an impact in the yeshiva hockey world.
Jack Mosseri clears the defensive zone
Early in the season, the boys from Flatbush have shown the ability to compete with the best (note the team’s huge road victory over cross-division rival Frisch) and lose to the best (note the pasting put on the Falcons by the super-solid HAFTR squad). But with the majority of the regular season in the rear-view mirror, these two games would be a key indicator of how far the team has come and how much success could be anticipated come playoff time.
Goalie Stephen Esses stonewalls DRS
Both teams are quick to the puck and both teams boast two strong lines that keep the pressure at full tilt from the first drop of the puck through the sounding of the final horn. But at the heart, each team’s chance for success rests on the pads of the final line of defense – the goalie. At both venues, the goaltending for each squad could only be described as stellar. On the opening game in Long Beach, Flatbush’s senior goalie Stephen Esses had what could only be described as a breakout game. It was as if everything finally came into focus for him; the game slowed down and the puck looked as big as a softball. Along with solid play from the defenders in front of him, Esses shut down the high-powered Wildcat offense for the entire first period. But as the teams were just settling in to second period play, DRS broke the stale mate with a quick goal one minute in giving the hosts a 1-0 lead. Earlier in the season, this might have led to Flatbush folding up the tent and watching the floodgates open. But, the Falcons scraped themselves up and again proceeded to hold the line on defense and continue to pepper the DRS goalie on offense. However, late in the period having just killed off one penalty, Senior defender Michael Tawil was whistled for interference. Weary, and again shorthanded, the Falcons yielded the game’s second goal with just under a minute left in the second period.
Morris Bijou lets fly a hard slap shot
Regrouping, Flatbush came out for the third period determined to get back in the game. And four minutes in, they did just that. Senior Co-Captain Moe Maleh finally beat the DRS goalie with a beauty of a goal, getting the Falcons on the board. But that was to be it, as the DRS defense held the Falcons at bay the rest of the way. In the end, the Wildcats defended the home rink, turning away the Falcons from Brooklyn, 2-1.
Morris Shayo send a crossing pass into the DRS crease
That set up the re-match on the gym floor at Flatbush HS. The question: would the Falcons be able to bring the up-tempo, in-your-face game to DRS a second time in less than a week, and this time could they turn the tables on the Wildcats and get the “W”? The answer to the first part was evident from the first drop of the puck. Flatbush brought the pressure on offense and stood tall in the battle on defense. It was a virtual repeat performance of game one. Each team pressed hard on offense, working hard to dig the puck out of the corners and sending crossing pass after crossing pass through the goal crease. And again, the opposing goalies stood tall behind their solid defenses. Through the entire first period and well into the second, neither team could break through. Then, about half-way through period two, Flatbush struck gold behind the experienced duo of Moe Maleh and Morris Bijou. Like they have done so many times over their Flatbush hockey careers, Maleh deftly moved past his defender and sent a perfect cross to Bijou who’s one-timer found the back of the net, lifting the crowd to its feet and staking the Falcons to a one-nil lead. But, could they make it stand up?
Falcons celebrate Bijou's 2nd goal of the game
It did not seem possible, but the Wildcats amped up the pressure on offense even more, and the Falcon defenders - anchored by Moe Maleh on the first line and Michael Tawil on the second line - were equal to the task. While DRS kept putting the puck out in front of the goal, Coach Lefell employed a rotation of Sol Sasson, Marc Barsano, Jack Mosseri, Abie Cohen and Jack Sasson alongside Maleh and Tawil that kept the Falcon legs fresh and made sure there was no DRS player there to receive the pass. And, when there was, Stephen Esses was right there to turn them away. Esses did not stand on his head, but he did not need to. He stood big in front and glided with ease from post to post to deny the Wildcats again and again.

Coming out for the third and final period, the Falcons were clinging to their 1-0 lead. With play intensified by both teams all over the rink, everyone was wondering if another goal would be recorded, and if so would it lift the Falcons further or would it be the equalizer for the Wildcats? It was then that controversy landed at Flatbush. With nearly half the period gone, Flatbush took what could have been a costly penalty, giving DRS a man advantage at a key point in the game. With the penalty-kill unit working the puck, a clear looked to be going towards the Falcon bench. The puck then kicked off the bench area, tying up the DRS defender, and a streaking Sam Laniado made a quick course correction, scooped up the loose puck and deftly deked the DRS goalie depositing the puck behind him and seemingly lifting the Falcons to an insurmountable 2-0 lead.
But after a loud clamor from the DRS bench and their supporters in the stands, the referees huddled together for an extended period then dramatically waved off the goal, stating that it struck a Falcon player on the bench before being deflected back out on to the playing surface. The puck was ruled out of play, and the ensuing goal was disallowed. The Flatbush faithful were now up in arms! With the call coming so late after the goal was registered, how could the officials allow themselves to be influenced by the din of the crowd, or by the cries of a coach? The essential question that would go unanswered was, if the play did not result in a goal, would the officials have stopped play and ruled a face-off or would play just have continued on without stop? It appeared that the answer would have been the latter, and if that was the case then it could be argued that the goal should have stood. Nevertheless, while the ruling may have been just (the puck did in fact strike a player’s equipment on the bench before ricocheting out towards the center of the court), the question would go unanswered and the goal was disallowed. Flatbush successfully killed off the penalty and continued to make the one-goal lead stand up. With time running down, DRS finally pulled its goalie for an extra man, and with under one minute to play Morris Bijou intercepted a pass and flicked a long court shot from deep in the Flatbush zone that struck home in the empty net lifting the Falcons to a 2-0 lead. With the Falcons looking to close things out, DRS received one last ray of hope as Maleh took a penalty with :22 seconds remaining. Again lifting the goalie for a 5-on-3 advantage, DRS finally beat Esses over the left shoulder with :08 seconds to play. But the token goal was as close as DRS would get. Back at full strength, Flatbush closed out the final seconds, and the team rushed the court exalting in the upset victory and sending notice to the League that Flatbush plans to be in the mix when it comes time to crown a champion!

Nest Notes:
Flatbush hosts the other MYHSAL hockey leader, HAFTR, on Thursday night, 12/26, as they look to avenge their worst defeat of the season. In earlier games, on 12/9 Flatbush defeated Magen David by a score of 5-0. Sam Laniado scored twice on feeds from Morris Bijou. Moe Maleh had two goals; one unassisted and one off the stick of Laniado. Sol Sasson closed out the scoring with an assist from Michael Tawil. On 12/12 Flatbush defeated SSLI also by a score of 5-0. Flatbush was led by Moe Maleh who tallied 2 goals and 2 assists. Sam Laniado, Ben Vilinsky and Jordan Hill added one goal apiece. Additional assists came from Laniado and Michael Tawil. On 12/21 Flatbush defeated YDE by a score of 6-0. The Falcons were paced by two goals apiece from Morris Bijou and Sam Laniado. The other two goals came from Moe Maleh and Morris Shayo.