Israel's national junior ice hockey team has returned from its North American tour better equipped for the future. The squad traveled to six cities between October 14-29, including Miami, Montreal and Toronto, to face stiff competition and also raise funds for the Israel Ice Hockey Federation. The trip was part of the preparation for the 2006 world championships in their division, which will be held at the Canada Center in Metulla. "The trip was a huge success on many fronts, not the least of which was the time that coach Jean Perron was able to have with the team... [T]he team drastically improved," said Alan Maislin, Israel IHF chairman. Shortly after arriving in Miami, and still recovering from jet lag, the national squad absorbed two lopsided losses, 10-2 and 7-0, in front of a 3,000-strong, pro-Israel crowd at the Bank Atlantic Center, home of the NHL's Florida Panthers. The next stop was Philadelphia, where the team bounced back against the Junior Flyers. In the most exciting match of the series, Eden Nemenoff made 34 saves as the blue-and-white held the hosts to a 1-1 tie. That game provided a spark as the squad headed to New York, where it dominated the New York Cyclones 4-0, and Montreal, overwhelming Lauren Hill Academy 8-1. In Ottawa, however, the momentum ran out against its toughest competitor of the series. The Midget AA Nepean Raiders trounced the Israelis 11-1. Daniel Spivak scored four goals as the visitors defeated Forest Hill Select 9-5 in the tour finale at Toronto. Daniel Erlich hit the back of the net twice and assisted on two more goals. While Israel was called for a number of penalties and was short a player for significant lengths of time during the first two periods, it overwhelmed its opposition in the final frame when it managed to stay out of the penalty box. Just prior to the world championships, the team will be sent on another whirlwind tour in order to give them another opportunity to play against teams of a high caliber and to experience playing game after game in a series. Maislin told The Jerusalem Post that Yehuda Raveh has agreed to be the chairman of the committee that will organize the world championships. Kaplan leads speed skaters in Italy Elena (Prybysh) Kaplan won the bronze medal in the Junior A 1000-meter event at the 14th Alta Valtellina Trophy in Bormio, Italy, over the weekend. Kaplan came in sixth overall, which combined the results from the 500, 1000, 1500 and Superfinal 1500 meters. Vladislav Bykanov, in the Junior B age group, was sixth in the 1000m and ninth in the 1500m. Sergei Kudria, skating in the Junior C category, won a silver medal in the 1000m, a bronze medal in the 500m, was fifth in the 1500m Superfinal and finished fourth overall. Valeria Postrigan, also in Junior C, managed a sixth place showing in the 500m. A total of eleven Israelis competed at the event, where a total of more than 150 skaters from 19 countries participated.