Team Israel recorded a surprise triumph last week by claiming a bronze medal at the 2013 World Ball Hockey Championships in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada.
Competing in Division B, the squad defeated Hong Kong 3-2 in a shootout to capture 3rd place. Forward Beni Berisha fired home the winner in Round 6 sending the boys in blue into a wild celebration.
“To wear the Star of David on your jersey and represent Israel is an amazing honor on its own but to win bronze when critics thought we wouldn’t win a single game, it’s hard to describe how good it feels,” said Assistant Captain Darren Winkler.
What makes the accomplishment even more impressive is that this was Israel’s first appearance at this tournament and many of the opposing countries have played together for years.
The idea to field a team at such a prestigious event was the brainchild of Evgeni Mogilevski. Looking to boost the popularity of ball hockey in Israel, Mogilevski sought out a group of local players and then reached out to Canadian Jews to fill out the roster.
The Canadians, considered Heritage players, constructed the squad in Toronto. Within weeks, Team Israel led by Captain Ryan Kimel, Assistant Lee Grunberg and Coach Daniel Finkler was formed and began training.
The road to bronze took several unexpected turns. After a tie in the opening game to Italy, Israel dropped three straight.
Needing a victory to keep its medal hopes alive, the blue and white downed Great Britain 4-2 then came back from a three-goal deficit to shock heavily favored Cayman Islands.
That win led to the matchup against Hong Kong for bronze. Again, the team needed to rally. After trailing 2-0 early, Israel battled back to force overtime and then earn the hardware in a thrilling shootout.
Team Israel’s Roman Price led all scorers in Division B with six goals and six assists in Round Robin play. He was named the tournament’s top forward. Beni Berisha was added to the 1st All Star Team at Forward. Israel also took home the Fairplay award.
So what happens now? The team has two years to figure out the future roster. The next World Championships are scheduled for 2015 in Zug, Switzerland.