By Casey Wedge
Irvine Recap/Sunday Wrap Up
The Irvine Regional Qualifier is a pretty big event each and every year. However, a 96-team tournament producing 20 division winners is entirely unheard of. With 216 games jam packed into 3 days there’s been too many tight matchups to catch everything in pictures and film so I’ll do my best to sum it all up here.
As I mentioned yesterday there were eight teams in this weekends Atom division. Following pool play the division 8 and under division was broken up into four semi final games – two gold and two silver matchups. In the silver bracket the AKS 05 team met the Tour Rebels and defeated them by a final score of 12-1. The AKS 05’s took to the rink ready to go and continued to prove they wanted it that much more beating the Rebels to almost every loose puck. AKS 05’s continued their powerhouse offense as they squared up against the San Diego Rockets 05’s for the Atom silver final ending with a final score of 9-2 earning themselves a team set of gold medals. After the round robin portion of the tournament, Anarchy played a couple of offensively minded, goal hungry games first defeating the San Diego Rockets 04’s 9-1 and then the AKS 04’s 9-5. This pair of 9-goal games merited the gold medals they fought all weekend to win.
The HB Militia continued to dominate their division after going 3-0 with 26 goals for and only 2 against in their first three games. In the playoff matchups they beat out the AKS 04 squad 10-2 and then the Militia 37th Division 9-1 earning themselves the Mite Gold championship. In the silver bracket for the Mite division the Tour Rebels met AKS 02 and the San Diego Rockets were matched up with AKS 03. The Rebels vs. AKS was a battle the whole time. The two teams went back and forth but the Rebels prevailed with a 7-5 victory in the end of it all. With the help of his defensemen eating pucks and clearing out the crease, San Diego Rockets goaltender, Brance Nakamura kept the AKS 03 team shutout and lead his team to a 3-0 win and advancement to the Mite Silver final. With momentum from the shutout before, the San Diego Rockets were able to wear out the Tour Rebels and end with a final score of 8-4 and those big gold medals dangling around their necks.
The 14-team Squirt division had a bunch of tight matchups and four teams that managed to stay undefeated through pool play. The four undefeated teams met each other in the Squirt Platinum semifinal games where obviously, not everyone would remain undefeated. The first seeded Alkali High Rollers 00 met with the Militia 5th Battalion AA and defeated them 6-2. In the second semifinal matchup, HB Militia Battalion 11 controlled the entire game and beat the Tour Rebels with a final score of 9-2. Finishing off the job the and finding the back of the net another 9 times (making that 43 goals for on the weekend) the HB Militia Battalion 11 beat the Alkali High Rollers 9-3. The remaining 10 teams were split into gold and silver brackets with a set of silver playoffs followed by silver semifinals and gold semifinals. In one of the two Squirt silver semis the Mission/Bauer Outcasts took the floor against the Alkali High Rollers 01 who came in with momentum after defeating the Militia 5th Battalion A 5-2 in their playoff game. After each team scoring a couple quick goals it was a tie game for most of the first period and a majority of the second. It came down to the wire and the Outcasts were able to get the go-ahead goal and move on to the silver final where they met California Roller Hockey Club A. Similarly, that game had back and forth scoring with the Outcasts just able to edge out a few goals towards the end of the game to win it all 6-4 and take those gold medals back to AZ.
In the Peewee division the WC Warriors tied with the Revision 99’s through the round robin in terms of points, goals against, and goals for. They met in a shootout Sunday morning where the WC Warriors were able to bury that go ahead goal and earn themselves the number one seed in the division. The Peewee platinum semifinal matchups were the WC Warriors vs. NCR Tour Elite and the Revision 99’s vs. Tour Mudcats. After winning their shootout the WC Warriors were able to come into their semifinal game confident and carrying momentum and defeated the NCR Tour Elite 7-3. However when the met the Tour Mudcats in the Peewee platinum final, head coach Gerry Osterkamp was able to coach his team to a puck controlled game and edging out the WC Warriors with a final score of 3-1. In the Peewee gold bracket, California Roller Hockey Club AAA proved they wanted it more when matched up against their AA team from the same club winning 5-1. Bringing the energy from their semifinal victory to the championship game, the California Roller Hockey Club AAA’s were able to outlast and out-battle 2K Gong Show in an overtime showdown finally settled 3-2. Although the War Hawks beat down the HB Militia Battalion 11 6-0 in their semifinal game they were unable to earn another 2 points and gold medals as they met Notion in the Peewee silver final. The War Hawks battled to put up four tallies on the board, but Notion controlled the game and walked away with the Peewee silver ‘ship and a final score of 7-4.
The exact same WC Warriors team that took first seed in the Peewee division played in the Bantam division as well, looking to for some bigger and stronger competition. Although they didn’t quite earn that number one seed like they did in peewees, they played a few close games and were seeded 11th overall but couldn’t match up against high paced game of Jim Irwin’s Mission/Bauer Raiders losing 4-2. Through pool play and playoffs all three Bantam finals were close one or two goal games. The Bantam silver final consisted of the NCR Tour Elite 97’s matched up against California Roller Hockey AA. California Roller Hockey AA proved to be a more mature team keeping composure in a tight 4-3 victory. The California Roller Hockey AAA team met the Mission Militia helped earn head coach Dave Cairns his second Bantam division gold medal of the day with a 5-4 win. The Bantam platinum final produced the largest goal differential with the Revision Vanquish netting an empty net goal with just under a minute remaining to give them the gold medal and a 5-3 victory over the Cali Plugs. Three final games all with a one or two goal differential prove how competitive the division was – every game was an absolute battle.
The Midget division was full grinding along the boards, finesse plays, and shootout finishes. The Midget platinum bracket broke down to Alkali RPD (2nd seed) vs. NCR Tour Elite (3rd seed) and Revision Vanquish (1st seed) vs. Labeda XDH (4th seed). Revision Vanquish proved why they earned the number one seed by defeating Labeda XDH 7-2. The RPD vs. Elite game was a goal-tending showdown with some of the top players in the division facing off against each other. Going both ways, midget division high scorer, Troy Loggins of Alkali RPD pummeled Elite goaltender Peter Simonsen with shots throughout the game and Elite’s top players Donny Carter and Kyle Aldrich controlled much of the with patience and persistence. The game couldn’t be settled in the 34 minutes of regulation and the additional 5-minute overtime just wasn’t enough. In the four-man shootout the NCR Tour Elite’s were able to bury that go ahead goal and advance to the Midget Platinum final. The overtime game wasn’t enough to wear down the NCR Tour Elite as they took the floor against Revision Vanquish a few hours later. For most of the second period Elite had maintained a 3-2 lead until with less than a minute remaining in regulation Vanquish tied it up. An all too familiar scene unfolding for the Elite heading into overtime in a 3-3 game but again after a few opportunities each way the additional 5 minutes was not enough to settle this dispute. In the six-man shootout, Elite’s Kyle Aldrich buried two shots and Peter Simonsen stopped 5 of 6 shots leading their team to victory – two overtime/shootout games later they had earned their gold medals.
In the 7-team division there were plenty of close games and a few not so close games. The Mission/Bauer Outcasts Platinum proved they were the team to beat in this weekends tournament going 3-0 through their pool play finding the back of the net 24 times and only allowing 5 goals against. They were then matched up against Labeda XDH in their semifinal game and controlled the entire game resulting in a 7-1 victory and a straight path to the championship matchup Sunday afternoon. In a much closer game the Revision Vanquish met the Red Army in the 2 vs. 3 Junior platinum semi. In a game that was locked at 2-1 with Revision leading for the majority of the game, the Red Army tied it up with just a few minutes to go. However with less than two minutes remaining the Vanquish squad was able to get that go ahead goal and control the puck for the last little bit of the game earning them the second spot in the Junior platinum final. Revision Vanquish held the Mission/Bauer Outcasts to their closest game of the tournament – an eventual 2-0 win. Outcast player Tommy Tuohy pointed out that the core group of this Outcast team, primarily ’92 birth years, has won their division in this tournament since they were first year Peewees: back to back Peewee championships, back to back Bantam championships, back to back Midget championships and now back to back Junior championships. With another year of juniors for most of the team, will they keep the streak alive at next years Irvine qualifier? I guess we’ll have to wait and see… Following the round robin portion of the tournament the Junior gold bracket broke down to the 5th seeded Mission/Bauer Outcasts Gold matching up against the 6th seeded Mission/Bauer Raiders. The game got chippy quick and in an instant it was a 2-2 game with only a few minutes remaining. Both teams had opportunities on top of opportunities on top of opportunities but stellar goaltending on both ends kept the puck out of the nets. With less than a minute and a half remaining in the very last game of the day, the bleachers on the Raider’s side erupted as they buried the eventual game-winning goal to take home those shiny gold medals.
The six teams in the Men’s gold division each played four very important round robin games. Following the four game pool play portion of the tournament the first seeded NCR Elite earned a bye to the final while the second seeded Merge and third seeded 831 Scrubs/SJC Uprising met in a playoff game while Labeda XDH, Original Tommy’s and Notion were all eliminated. Scoring going back and forth, one goal at a time the game was tied with a few minutes to go when the 831 Scrubs were able to bury that go ahead, game winning goal. A little later on in the Men’s gold final the NCR Tour Elite looked slightly fatigued after a long weekend of coaching all the younger Elite teams and already playing 4 games and the 831 Scrubs were able to grind out a 5-3 victory.
Between the combination of having fewer teams in both the men’s platinum division and pro division at Winternationals and NARCh Finals and the way they’re dispersed across the country the two divisions were fused together for the weekend. After setting the tempo in their first game of the tournament beating the Red Army in close 4-2 game with plenty of good scoring opportunities both ways the Tour Rebels won their next two games and took the number one seed going into playoffs. In the semifinals the Tour Rebels were matched up against the Pama Cyclones Platinum team and crushed them 9-1. The Cyclones didn’t stand a chance in this game; from the first drop of the puck the Rebels controlled the game and buried their chances. In the second semifinal game the Red Army took the floor against the Pama Pro team. Pama went up 2-0 early and that’s the way it was for the majority of the game. In the last five or six minutes the Red Army had to start taking some chances as they faced elimination and those gambles did not pay off so well. Pama went on to win the game 6-0. So many players in the Pro division have such a natural scoring touch and so much talent – this was definitely on display in the Pro final this weekend. With a short 5-man bench Pama was able to offensively over power the Tour Rebels with tic-tac-toe passing and plenty of give-and-go’s defeating them with a final score of 9-6.
Although not everyone walked away with medals, most left the rink with a smile and overall sense of satisfaction following a solid weekend of competitive hockey. Whether your travels home were near or far we hope you got home safely and as always, there seems to be so much action that I could write a blog this long about every division if not every single team in the tournament, but until next time…thanks for playing in this year’s NARCh Irvine Regional Qualifier and be sure to check out the NARCh Players Facebook page for photos and videos of the event.