When I decided to take on the job as coach of the HAFTR Middle School Flames I realized that it was going to take a lot of work, passion and commitment to the great sport of hockey to turn the team around from its 3-6 record from the previous season. To do it right I also knew that the boys on this year’s team would need plenty of practice time and a second coach so that everyone would receive the proper coaching to become part of the best team in the MYJHHL. Coach Jonathan Glaubach was to work with the defense and I was going to work with the offense. It was a tandem the school felt comfortable with, understanding that we are both parents of children attending HAFTR and both understand the meaning of patience and tolerance. My father, Ivan Gluck, was the first coach in HAFTR Flames history and I was a player on his HAFTR Flames Championship team so it was a privilege for me to be able to coach my son the way he coached his.
Jonathan and I were thrilled to be able to have this opportunity to turn a group of young middle school boys into self-confident young men and hockey players. It was always our intention as coaches from the beginning of the season to instill a winning attitude and solid work ethic with an emphasis on teamwork this year. We were very confident the team would go deep into the playoffs and hoped to bring the HAFTR Middle School Flames its first ever championship.
Yes, a championship. It was a winning attitude that was consistently instilled in the team at every single practice and before and after every game throughout the entire season. In addition, it was explained to the boys that proper midot and sportsmanship were the most important aspects of representing the HAFTR Flames and nothing less than exemplary behavior would be acceptable.
We were considered the underdog by league opinion. We faced competitive opponents during the season but our approach and mantra always remained the same: Work hard at practice, prepare mentally for the games, and learn from our mistakes.
The season began on a positive note by beating Flatbush at home 7-6, led by our MVP to be, assistant captain Zachary Kramer who scored a hat trick. Our biggest rivalry, of course, was HALB. They were the favorite to win it all. The first game we played against them was one to remember. The HAFTR Flames beat the HALB Lions at HALB 3-0. Not just a win, but a shutout! This was the first time in five years that a team shutout HALB and for our goalie, Ryan Gluck, it was the pinnacle of his three-year career as goalie for the Middle School Flames. From that point on, the team understood that anything was possible. If you beat the best you can beat the rest.
Our last game of the season was a commanding 5-0 win over Magen David which propelled us into the playoffs. After all the hard work and perseverance, what an end to an amazing season for the HAFTR Middle School Flames finishing the season with a winning record of 5-4!
Now it was on to the playoffs.
The road to the championship began with a Quarterfinals 3-2 double overtime win against Flatbush, the game winner scored by Jack Winkler. Then we needed to get past HALB in the Semifinals. We beat them during the regular season in their gym and the confidence level of the team was very high that we could do it again. In fact, the atmosphere at HALB that night felt like a championship game, not the semifinals. You see, this was a rematch for some of the players on the team who lost to HALB in double overtime when they were in 6th grade and everyone in attendance realized that a trip to the championship game was on the line.
The Flames opened up with a 2-0 lead and finished strong with a 4-2 win; all 4 goals were scored by Zachary Kramer.
Next were the Finals where it would take five periods of hockey to decide who was going to be champion. From the first shift of one of the most exciting Championship Games, the Flames knew they would be working hard all night. With the leadership of their captain Yehuda Segelnick, a stellar performance by assistant captain Ryan Gluck; one of the leagues’ top goalies, and the offensive prowess of assistant captain and MVP Zachary Kramer, the Middle School HAFTR FLAMES went on to beat ASHAR 5-4 in double overtime and are now the Metropolitan Yeshiva Junior High Hockey League Champions!!! Justin Lish scored a goal, Zachary Kramer and Jack Winkler who were reunited on the first line several times throughout the game, each had 2 goals. It was a beautiful backhand pass by Zachary Kramer to Jack Winkler in the second overtime period that "iced" the championship for the Flames.
The place went wild as the entire team emptied onto the court to tackle the OT hero Jack Winkler and begin celebrating. All of the Flames fans consisting of HAFTR faculty, students and parents ran out to join the team in celebration and for the trophy ceremony. The bus ride home was the best ride these boys ever experienced, filled with excitement and exuberance, knowing they were going straight to a team dinner together to celebrate this spectacular moment in their lives.
The entire team contributed towards this unprecedented HAFTR Middle School championship win! This is the first time since the inception of the MYJHHL that the HAFTR Middle School Flames participated in and won a championship game.
On Thursday, March 29 at 6:30 p.m. HAFTR is keeping the momentum going by hosting a barbecue kicking off the construction of their new sports complex, with a Q and A session on that, and celebrating the Flames’ and the 7th grade basketball team’s wins. It will take place in the lower school gym.
YEHUDA SEGELNICK #8 Captain
RYAN GLUCK #39 Ast. Captain
JUSTIN LISH #68 Ast. Captain
ZACHARY KRAMER #17 Ast. Captain
JACK WINKLER #12
JASON GLABACH #31
JACOB GROSSMAN #91
CHARLIE GOLDSCHMIEDT #15
JEREMY SOLOMON #2
GABRIEL SHORE #28
ELIJAH GLAUBACH #36
MOE HOROWITZ #9
SAMMY BERNSTEIN #13
MARC KARASANTI #42