Four skaters from Detroit lead the way on their multi-delegation team at the JCC Maccabi Games in San Diego.
There were 14 teams in hockey competition at the JCC Maccabi Games in San Diego.
Only two, Philadelphia and Toronto, had players from a delegation. The other teams were made up of a potpourri of teenage athletes from various delegations.
After being canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Maccabi Games returned in August with many delegations unable to field their own teams.
Detroit forward Aiden Ben-Ezra, defenseman Brennan Gesund, defenseman Lucas Hutten and forward Braylon Juszak joined a hockey team with one player from Palisades, New Jersey, five players from St. Louis and four players from Westchester , New York.
The team’s coaches, actually parents of players whose only duty in San Diego was to coach the team’s games, were Detroit’s Scott Hutten and Westchester’s Daniel Mizukovski.
The team never trained.
They all met before the Maccabi Games through a Zoom meeting and an Excel spreadsheet put together by Mizukovsky that listed age, position, height, teams in 2021-22, teams in 2022-23, contact information and , most importantly, of each player. , strong points on the ice.
The two coaches talked often before heading to San Diego, trying to put the pieces together and strategize.
All that craziness doesn’t compare to the game the team played for third place and the bronze medal.
Facing a team made up of players from Chicago, Houston, Montreal and Springfield, Massachusetts, the Detroit team (let’s call it that to keep things simple) battled back to a 4-4 tie in regulation time and a 3-on-10 game. 3 sudden death overtime period.
A 14-round shootout followed the overtime period, with only one goal scored. Detroit lost.
“It seemed like that shooting went on forever,” Scott Hutten said. “I am very proud of our team. I told the guys before the game to give it all they had for 60 minutes, and they’d make memories for a lifetime. They did that.”
Scott Hutten’s son, Lucas Hutten, had a shot at the marathon shooting. He doesn’t remember if he was saved or the network failed.
“That shooting was crazy,” he said. “Both goalkeepers did headstands.”
Max Siegel was Detroit’s goalie in that game. The 6-foot-2 goalkeeper from Westchester shared goalkeeping duties on the team with Jayden Elias of the Palisades (5-1), one of the few girls in the Maccabi Games hockey competition.
Detroit played seven games in four days, going 4-3.
It won three of four round-robin games, beating Alberta/Ft. Lauderdale/Orange County/Pittsburgh 10-0, losing 9-0 to eventual gold medal winner Toronto, beating Vancouver/Virginia Beach/Western New York 4-0 and beating Phoenix/San Diego 10-1.
A 6-1 loss to Philadelphia was followed by a 7-1 victory over Orange County, earning Detroit a spot in the bronze medal game.
All four Detroit players racked up goals and assists during the tournament and were team leaders on the ice and off the bench.
Ben-Ezra (nine goals, six assists), Gesund (five goals, six assists), Hutten (three goals, eight assists) and Juszak (five goals, five assists) reached double-digit points each.
All four play hockey in high school.
Ben-Ezra, a 5-1 dynamo, plays for Bloomfield Hills. The description of him in the coaches excel sheet read: “Super high hockey IQ, grinder, often able to get into tight spaces due to small size of him, incredible rim work.”
Scott Hutten called Ben-Ezra an “Energizer bunny, great skater.”
Lucas Hutten and Juszak play for Novi, and Gesund plays for Walled Lake Northern.
Now that Lucas Hutten has tried playing hockey at an event for Jewish athletes (he also played for Detroit at the 2019 Maccabi Games in Motor City) he has his eyes on another big Jewish sporting event.
He wants to compete in the Maccabiah Games in Israel, also known as the Jewish Olympics, which will take place in 2025.
“I absolutely want to play hockey for Team USA at the Maccabiah Games,” he said.
In the meantime, he’s enjoying his experiences at the Maccabi Games in San Diego, which included staying in a dorm at the University of San Diego along with a few hundred other male athletes because there weren’t enough host families.
“Being in the bedroom was fine. Actually, we weren’t there long. It was great to meet Jewish guys from all over who were into different sports,” he said.
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