By Jeremy Ellis
It was moving today at the Hershey Centre for the 2013 NARCh Finals. The Men’s Gold, Silver, and Bronze divisions all wrapped up as we get prepared for the onslaught of platinum and Division 1 teams. It is almost as if the second half of the Finals is an event onto itself. I know I speak for all of the staff here when I say that we are excited to witness and be a part of the greatest talent pool in the sport.
The day began at 10am on Sunday, plenty of time for the men’s teams to shake off any rust that may have accumulated from their Saturday night activities. Every game today was of the playoff variety with the Gold division quarterfinals taking place on both rinks. This division took on a new complexion early as the #1 Seed Delco Demons were upset in their first playoff game by the Top Gunn team from Long Island. The upsets didn’t stop there as the Buffalo Steel advanced as a #7 seed against the #2 seeded Montreal Alkali Ducks. TH other quarterfinals saw the Rattlers Vets and Canning Mudhogs advance setting up interesting semifinal matchups later in the day.
Next up was the Silver division semifinals and again the top seeds were put on notice. The Rinos Napalm jumped on the #1 seeded Tour Roadrunners quickly and were able to hang on by adding an insurance goal late to pull off the upset 4-2. As upsets permeated the arena, the Royal Roller Sports Club did their part and secured their spot in the final with a 6-3 win against Straight Outta Compton. That set up the Royal Roller – Rinos matchup for the Silver championship later in the day.
With the Bronze division brackets set from Saturday night’s action, the semifinals commenced at 12:15pm. These games were decided early on as the winning clubs MRHA and Pursuit Training both looked to be of Gold Medal pedigree with comfortable wins. The matchup was set and each team enjoyed a a couple of hours off to re-energize and to develop a plan of attack. The intensity of both teams was evident during warmups, however, at the opening faceoff, MRHA was content to control the puck while waiting for opening in the Saints defense. MRHA looked to be on their way early in opening a 2 goal lead, but the Saints battled back every time and were only down a goal late in the second half. After a couple of late goals by MRHA, the boys in yellow finally hoisted the NARCh trophy with a 7-4 win.
The Silver Final saw the Rinos and their superior speed take advantage of a Royals club that seemed content to play the box. The Rinos took advantage by peppering the net with shots and then crashing the paint for rebounds. The strategy proved successful and the controlled theplay throughout as they cruised to a 6-1 win. The highlight was the team celebration once they took control of the championship cup. Through the group cheer that they choreographed, the team showed the excitement that overwhelmed them as they were crowned champions. There is some great video of it from the live stream and on highlights and I definitely recommend checking out.
The last game of the day was the Mens Gold final with Top Gunn and the upstart Buffalo Steel squaring off. Tee advantage in bodies went to Top Gunn with 15 players. They attacked in waves and attempted to wear down the shorter staffed Steel. Recognizing this, the Steel made a point of playing puck possession and seizing the opportunities. Armed with a 2 goal lead they worked the clock to their favor. The Top Gunn team is big on heart though and you knew they would make it a game. They did in the second half as the answered a Steel goal right away to make it a 3-2 game. After some close opportunities by Top Gunn were turned aside, the Steel tacked on an insurance tally to make it 4-2. Coach Gunn once again settled for the Silver medal but his teams determination and effort are always gold caliber.
Tomorrow the speed ratchets up quite a few notches with Midget Platinum and Division 1 entering the arena. I am anxious to see the new wave of younger talent that represents the future of the sport. The rink will be buzzing until the late afternoon so stop out and see us if you haven’t already. You are always welcome at the World’s Greatest Roller Hockey, NARCh!