Haifa ice hockey 298.88.
(photo credit: Lionel Gaffen/Fotomix)
After being bridesmaids the past two years, Haifa finally managed to win the national ice hockey championship by dethroning Bat Yam II 5-0 on Friday in the final matchup of the season.
It's been a long wait between championships for Haifa, 13 years since their last one in the '93-'94 season, so there was a great deal of joy from their devoted fans, who cheered them on with vigor throughout the season.
Both teams came into the final with the same won-lost record, but Haifa took the league title after achieving a better goals for record in the two games they played against each other during the season.
Haifa and Bat Yam reached the final championship game by defeating Ma'alot and Metulla respectively in the semifinals two weeks ago.
The Metulla players received their bronze medals by virtue of a better goals for record against Ma'alot, who finished fourth.
It was a power play goal that set the stage for Haifa's victory, coming at 8:15 of the opening period by Artium Korotin.
The team captain and national team regular scored off an excellent feed pass by Sergei Belo, another national team regular.
On the 17:03 mark, Eddy Ravniaga took a face-off and passed it back to the blue line, and Boris Pressel made no mistake, firing it past a stunned Alexander Loginov to put Haifa up 2-0. At 19:30, Korotin went in alone on Loginov and made no mistake, to close out the period.
And 10 minutes later Ravniag connected on feed passes by Belo and Pressel to put Haifa up 4-0.
The final goal came with seven seconds to go before the end of the second frame. Dmitry Rosenman took a lead pass from Korotin to give Haifa an unassailable lead.
Although the third period was scoreless, B.Y.II continually pressed, but every opportunity was foiled by the superb goaltending of Boris Amromin, the National team's number two goaler, who handled 33 shots in all, with 16 of those coming in the third frame.
Korotin took the honors as player of the game for Haifa.
Avishai Geller, the B.Y.II player of the game in a losing cause, paid tribute to the team and its captain Alexander Golubovich, who tragicaly passed away mid-season.
Geller told The Jerusalem Post: "Our biggest loss of the season was losing Alexander Golubovich, who, as captain, was the heart of the team. Without him, we had a much more difficult task during the balance of the year, and in this game, Amromin was very effective in nets for Haifa; he was very solid when he had to be."
B.Y.II, playing under the Lod banner, won the previous two championships under the leadership of Golubovich, who was considered to be the premier player in the country.
Sergei Belo shed some insight on the winning team's triumph. "I've now been on four teams while playing in Israel, and have won championships with each team. In all these years, I'm proud to say that I've been playing together with Eddy Ravniaga, and each time that we have moved to a different team, we've won championships.
Belo won championships with Bat Yam in '97, Jerusalem Lions in '98 and '99, Ma'alot from 2000-02 and now Haifa in 2006
The Championship gives the winners the right to represent Israel in the International Ice Hockey Federation Continental Cup play, which traditionally begins in September.
The Israeli National team will be leaving Israel for a five day training camp in the Czech Republic on April 18, in order to prepare for the upcoming IIHF World Championships, Division I, Group A, to take place in Amiens, France, from April 24-30.