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Haifa and Bat Yam II will compete for the 2005/06 Israel ice hockey league championship after defeating Ma'alot and Metulla, respectively, in the semifinals at the Canada Center in Metulla on Friday night.
In the opening game, Sergei Belo scored two goals to lead league-leading Haifa over a spirited fourth-pace Ma'alot 6-2.
Although Ma'alot tried to stay competitive, Haifa had too much firepower, with Eddy Ravniaga and Belo providing most of the fireworks.
Belo's first goal opened the scoring at 10:22 on a fine pass from Eddy Ravniaga, who was the outstanding player of the match.
Five minutes later, Ma'alot's Slava Golodnitsky pasted one past Boris Amromin to even the score, but the score would be tied for less than a minute.
Haifa took advantage of a momentary lapse in Ma'alot's defense, and Boris Pressel, on a feed by Alexander Stolyar, put Haifa back into the lead, which ended the scoring for the period.
After that, it was all Haifa, until close to the end. At 26:11, Belo notched his second, once again from Ravniaga, and less than three minutes later, Leonid Trupanov was fed by Belo to go up 4-1. Four minutes later, Stolyar knotted one, assisted by Ravniaga and Haifa held a 5-1 lead at the end of the second frame.
Haifa continued to control play in the third period, and at 50:30, Ravniaga, picked up a rebound and fired it into the goal to put Haifa up by five.
With four minutes left in the game, Belo was sent off for roughing, and Ma'alot's Slava Marchansky laced one past Amromin to cap the scoring.
"We felt the playoff pressure, and that it was more important than a regular game," said Ravniaga. "This was a win or lose situation. Our first line had to put out more, as our second line wasn't as strong as usual, since half of that line was out with illness."
Vachtang Dinzdada faced a 30-shot barrage in front of the goal, while Amromin saw 21 attempts.
Bat Yam II 3, Metulla 0
It seemed that there were almost as many penalties called - for tripping, hooking, cross checking and rough play - as there were shots on goal in this game between bitter rivals. BY II finished second in the regular season, while Metulla was third.
In the early part of the first period, Avishai Geller, and a brief moment later, Nissan Butbul, were given penalties for BY II, but Metulla was unable to capitalize on the opportunities.
At the nine-minute mark, Geller scored what turned out to be the game-winning goal. Five more penalties were called, against both teams, before the end of the frame, but neither team managed to mount a serious threat, as both goalies, BY II's Alexander Loginov and Metulla's Eden Nemenoff, were steadfast.
During the second period, BY II was called for three penalties, with Metulla getting one, and neither team added to the score.
Four more penalties were played out in the final frame, two for each side, but the score remained 1-0 until two minutes before the end of regulation. Evgeny Margulies split two defenders, went in alone on a clean breakaway and fired a shot past Nemenoff to give BY II a 2-0 lead.
A final penalty for Metulla with less than a minute to go sealed its fate, and Marek Lebedev scored an empty-net goal after Metulla pulled its goalie with seconds left, in a last ditch attempt to score.
Nemenoff faced 28 shots and the BY II goalie handled 27.
After the junior league semifinals on Friday, both league finals will be played on April 14. Bat Yam II and Haifa split their league games.
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