The United States has a shot at gold at the Maccabiah Games, and head coach Greg Gardner credits a core of college hockey talent for the team’s success.
“We have a strong mix of players from California and from out East; it’s been an easy transition for all of us because of their NCAA backgrounds,” said Gardner. “They were well coached before training camp even began, which allowed for the template of our systems and game plan to be implemented quickly.”
Gardner – an assistant coach at Mercyhurst and a former star player at Niagara – leads a team that features 20 NCAA players, including nine from Division I. The U.S. will face a Canadian team that includes four current or former NCAA players in the gold medal game on Saturday.
The battle for gold will be a rematch of Canada’s 3-2 win in the preliminary round, the lone blemish on the United States’ 3-1 record in the preliminary round.
The Maccabiah Games are held every four years in celebration of Jewish strength and solidarity. The U.S. delegation includes three men’s hockey teams: the open team, coached by Gardner, a junior team and a masters team.
Gardner’s team has embraced the greater significance of the event and the coach said that has helped contribute to its chemistry.
“The team came together really quickly,” he said. “I was hoping when I recruited this team that a group of NCAA players nearly all the same age could do that, but this has been outstanding.
“The players on this roster are great people and were all excited to participate in the Games for the right reasons. They have allowed themselves to let their guards down; to be in Israel on a team of Jewish-American college hockey players might be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
On the ice, players like Max Kalter (Connecticut), Eric Israel (Robert Morris) and brothers Jake (SUNY Potsdam) and Nick Rivera (Minnesota State) have been among the top performers as the U.S. prepares to meet Canada again.
|NCAA Players at the Maccabiah Games|
|Ryan Kruss||Lake Forest|
|Dan Radke||Lake Superior State|
|Sammy Bernard-Boymel||Sacred Heart|
|Max Blitz||SUNY Fredonia|
|Joshua Dickman||St. Michael’s|
|Zach Feldman||Lake Forest|
|Eric Israel||Robert Morris|
|David Jacobson||Oswego State|
|Matthew Mendelson||Penn State|
|Jacob Rivera||SUNY Potsdam|
|Luke Rivera||SUNY Fredonia|
|Nick Rivera||Minnesota State|
|Joseph Shecter||Army West Point|