After winning the Gold in Division III of the 2018 International Ice Hockey Federation’s U20 World Championship with a 5-0 record, Israel will play this year in Division IIB. IIHF reporter Ivan Tchechankov called Israel’s Gold “a historic day for Israeli ice hockey.”
No doubt the U20 national team would like to make history again in 2019. Head coach Derek Eisler will surely rely heavily on the core of his 2018 squad, which was anchored by top scorer, captain Mark Revniaga, a 1998 who’s eligible for the upcoming tournament. In the 2018 WJC played in Bulgaria, he scored 11 goals -- nearly half of the team’s entire 25-goal output -- and assisted on four in five games. His 15 points led all WJC scorers, so it was no surprise the center/right wing was selected as the top forward in the tournament.
Revniaga is now in his third season playing in North America. He is currently with the Northern Colorado Eagles of the Western States Hockey League, where he has three goals and a pair of assists in five games. He’s also played with the Point Mallard Ducks of the North American 3 Hockey League, and the New York Apple Core of the Eastern Hockey League.
Finishing eighth in scoring, and second on his team, at the 2018 WJC was Israeli defenseman Tomer Aharonovich, a 1999 with two years of U20 eligibility remaining. He recorded three goals and seven assists, and was named the tournament’s top defenseman. Aharonovich played 36 games in the EHL last year with the Philadelphia Revolution and tallied five goals and 17 assists.
The next three most prolific scorers were either full-time or part-time defenseman. Itay Mostovoy, a full-time blueliner, had two goals and five assists; 1999 winger-defenseman Marom Avraham, recorded a pair of goals and four assists; and Dan Hoffman, a defenseman-left winger born in 1999, had for assists in the tournament. Mostovoy, it should be noted, is only a 2001 who will continue to develop.
Center Tom Ignatovich, who finished sixth on the team with two goals and an assist, plays a tough game. He racked up 31 penalty minutes in five games in the 2018 WJC. This year he’s playing with Revniaga in Northern Colorado and is hoping to find a NCAA team after wrapping up his junior eligibility at the end of this season.
It’s no surprise that Israel was solid in goal at the 2018 WJC. Both netminders were in the top three in save percentage and both had outstanding goals-against averages.
“Our two goalies were really, really good. Without those two guys we wouldn’t be here,” Eisler told Tchechankov after Israel had wrapped up the 2018 title.
“Without good quality goaltending you can’t win gold medals. I have the luxury to alternate good goalies every game.”
Raz Werner, a 1999, played in three games and put up a 2.00 GAA, a .934 save percentage, and one shutout. Yonatan Reisinger, played in two games, allowing only five goals for a 2.50 GAA. The 2000-born goalie, who is in the net this year for the Hartford Jr. Wolfpack in the United States Premier Hockey League’s Premier Division, recorded a .904 save percentage. Werner is playing his junior hockey this season in Sweden in the J20 Elit division.
The 2018 gold these players helped win might be the spark Israel hockey needed to move the sport to the next level.
“I think with the success this U20 team just had here, the kids back home are watching it, everybody in Israel is seeing this,” Eisler said in the interview with Tchechankov. “There are more and more projects for ice rinks and there will be more people playing hockey. So I think just the sheer volume of interest will go up.”
The 2019 Division III WJC will be played in Croatia in January. Israel will be in a field of six that includes Mexico, the Netherlands, Croatia, Belgium, and Serbia.