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NSHA Floor Hockey Team Looks Ahead

The best is yet to come, according to coach Sruli Beitler, when asked about his North Shore High School Hebrew Academy boys’ floor hockey team.

With the Stars’ season coming to an abrupt end last week in a Metropolitan Yeshiva High School Hockey League opening round 3-0 playoff loss to Rambam (from Lawrence), Beitler was anything but discouraged. “They gave it their best,” he said. “They took the loss well but they just didn’t have it.” With less than 13 minutes to go, Rambam broke a scoreless tie and then added two more goals in the final period.

“We made quite a turn around,” he explained, speaking of his second season as coach of the Stars. North Shore was 8-6 in the regular season including victories over HAFTR (Lawrence) and DRS (Woodmere), two of the traditionally stronger teams in the division. Last year’s team had a losing record. “Next year we’ll be dangerous,” he added. 

Beitler is losing just two of his starters, goalie Adam Klein and Justin Zisholtz. Juniors John Silverman, Daniel Rosen and Harper Berman are expected back. “Adams improved tremendously this year,” said Beitler. “He’s one of the top goalies in the league. Justin has always been a leader in playing time and scoring goals. He’ll be missed.”

“John and Daniel,” said the coach, “have been leaders since they were freshmen on the junior varsity. Harper is an extremely hard worker.”

Floor hockey is an extremely popular sport among yeshivas in the metropolitan area. The league has 17 teams representing schools in Nassau, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Westchester and New Jersey. The Five Towns area alone has three teams (Rambam, HAFTR and DRS) and has always been looked upon as the strength of the league. SSLI of Jericho and HANC of Uniondale are the other area teams. HAFTR and DRS, in fact, have won eight of the last 12 league championships between them.

A close derivative of ice hockey, the Yeshiva league’s game is played in gyms with four men and a goalie on each side. Players shoot a hard orange ball (about the size of a baseball) at a goal that is just 54 inches wide. As in ice hockey there are three periods, but they’re 12 minutes long. Since there’s no ice and the players wear sneakers instead of skates, the sport values good stick handling, dribbling and passing, rather than speed.  Goalies wear full protection as in the ice game and players in the field wear helmets with full-face guards.

Many youngsters in the Five Towns start playing the sport at an early age, explains Beitler, who grew up there and started when he was two or three years old. “It’s a fun game,” said North Shore’s Harper Berman (a Hewlett resident) in explaining his attraction to the game. “It’s a good way to stay in shape.” Teammate Klein (a Woodmere resident) added, “I was attracted because I’m a big ice hockey fan.”

That type of attraction and popularity hasn’t taken hold in Great Neck yet but coach Beitler is working on that. He points out that his junior varsity has many Great Neck residents and compiled a 7-2 record (with a tie) this season. “I’m looking forward to next season and I know that the program will continue to grow.”