By Lonny Lovins:
Another unseasonably warm day off of the “Great One’s” highway, and the teams are playing tight to the finish. With all the little tykes done yesterday, it was time for the big kids to take over the rink. There was a lot of action, but outside of the preliminaries, the scores stayed pretty low today. Both our Bantam and Midget divisions gave us some really exciting games. Here is just a taste of what you missed if you weren’t here today.
Bantam Division - We started bright and early at 6:30 am, and while I am accustomed to getting up early, it seems that some of the teams were not. Our round robin games featured mostly blowouts with a smattering of close games sprinkled in for good measure. When the dust settled, we had our seeding done, and we were ready for some playoff action.
In the Bantam Gold final, we had the NCR Tour Elite playing against the top seeded Bender Nation. Bender Nation went through the preliminaries without giving up many goals, and they would need that style of play if they wanted to hang with the high flying NCR kids. NCR, well aware of how they would have to play to win this game, would jump on Bender Nation early, scoring a goal about a minute into the game on a strong stick play in front of the net. NCR would get on the board again five minutes later on a scorching play down the right side of the rink and a nice snipe low blocker. Bender Nation tried to stop the bleeding, but they couldn’t muster it, as NCR scored again only a couple minutes later to make it 3-0. NCR would make it 4-0 with 4 minutes left in the first and it looked as if the rout might be on. Bender Nation, would not go quietly, as they would score 3 on 3 late in the 1st period. After the break, Bender Nation would again find the net to cut the NCR lead to 2 goals. NCR would gather themselves and score to re extend their lead back to 3 goals. Bender Nation would score roughly 2 minutes after that, and we would have a game again. At this point, NCR goalie Cameron Houde would be on a mission to win the game. The NCR netminder made save after save to preserve his team’s lead. Bender Nation would even get a couple power plays late, but it wouldn’t matter. The net would not be surrendered any longer by NCR as they held on for the 2 goal win, 5-3.
Our Bantam Silver final had the “best of the rest” of the division vying for their own chance at a medal and glory. The Stockton Thunder cruised through their semi-final game, while the Nor-Cal Extreme were made to work a little harder by their counter part. Perhaps the hard working team the Extreme faced in their semi-final set them up for what would happen in their final. Both Stockton and Nor-Cal played a tight chess match for the first half of the 1st period. Extreme would get on the board first about 8 minutes in the game. The Thunder would answer quickly, tying the game in a flash. The tie game is as close as the Thunder would get, as the Extreme skated them up and down the rink scoring 2 more times before the period ended. The second period was all Extreme as they would score 3 more goals before the Thunder would get another tally. The goal the Thunder did get, was too little too late, as Matt Brown’s boys held off the Thunder and took home our second gold medal of the day by a score of 6-2.
Top Scorer for the Bantams went to #6 from the NCR Tour Elite Khoa Nguyen. Top Goalie for the Bantam Division went to the goaltending tandem from Bender Nation #56 Harrison Buehrle, and #1 Sage Sweeney.
Midget Division - Our Midget division consisted of 4 teams that looked evenly matched on paper. However, Chico had “bus legs” playing their first game, and dug themselves a hole that would seem impossible to dig out of. On the other hand, The Revolution looked extremely strong, with crisp passing, and pin point accurate shots, they seemed as if they would run away with the division. Reality would prove to be stranger than fiction as we had our first playoff in the division.
The Chico Firebirds played the top seeded and heavily favored Revolution team in our first playoff game. The Firebirds were playing back to back games because of the tough schedule today, and Revolution had mercied them earlier 9-1. Perhaps playing back to back games helped get the lead out from earlier in the day, because the Firebirds looked fresh. The Revolution also looked very fast, but they didn’t seem to be taking Chico seriously as they threw around a lot of lazy passes and kind of let the Firebirds hang around. Neither team scored in the first period. The second period got under way, and it was the Firebirds that found the net first on a great individual effort by one of their Bantam kids playing up. This seemed to wake the sleeping Revolution giant, as they quickly came down and tied the score. The Firebirds were not interested in history, and started looking to the future, as they scored two quick goals to go up 3-1. The next 9 minutes were absolute bedlam, as the Revolution finally got desperate. The Revolution started throwing every puck they could at the net, but the Firebirds goaltender, and their defense were equal to the task. Each being defensively responsible and keeping the puck out of the net any way they could. In the end, the Firebirds proved to be too stout for the Revolution, teaching them a valuable lesson along the way with a 3-1 victory.
Our second playoff did not have the same excitement as our first, but it did feature a lot of nice goals. The NCR team had kind of been under achieving all day, and they decided to come alive in this playoff game. On the back of good goal tending, and great scoring they controlled this game from start to finish. NCR would score 2 minutes in, and score 7 goals in 10 minutes to thoroughly dominate a Rampage team that had just come off of a gratifying round robin win. Down but not out, the Rampage rallied a couple of quick goals in the second period to make the game a bit more interesting, but in the end the damage from the first period was too much, and they succumbed, by way of mercy, to the NCR team. 10-2.
Our final game brought together the NCR Tour Elite, and the Chico Firebirds. The Chico Firebirds coming off of their game rest looked to continue their Cinderella run through the playoffs against NCR. This game was closer than it looked on paper, as the Chico Firebirds had plenty of chances, but the NCR goal tending and defense were equal to the task. After the defense and goal tending shined, the NCR offense took over. NCR would score 3 first period goals to take a commanding lead into the 2nd period. In the 2nd period NCR would add an additional goal early. The Firebirds would break their scoreless drought about halfway through the period, but it was too little too late as NCR would put together a couple more scoring plays to close out the game. Final score NCR 6, Firebirds 1.
With 5 goals and 3 assists for 8 points in the preliminary round, our Top Scorer award went to Nolan Garcia of The NCR Tour Elite. Our top goalie faced 57 shots and made 51 saves for a .894 save percentage, to make it a clean sweep for NCR Tour Elite, Noah Schwarzbach won the award.
All in all a very fun tournament, a big thank you to the Stockton Indoor Sports Complex for their hospitality, and an even bigger thanks to all of our teams. With out you, these tournaments would not be possible. Which reminds me, sign up for the regional in San Jose as soon as you can to insure your spot! Until next time!