The Last Recap from NARCh - Championship Sunday
Insider’s Look at Championship Sunday at the 2019 WC NARCh Finals
By: Raine Hernandez
There’s always this feeling that we all get on the last day of any NARCh event.
It’s bittersweet. There’s a part of me that feels sort of relieved that the long grueling days of being at the rink all day is almost over, but for the most part, it becomes rather heartbreaking that it’s the beginning of the end, and I have to wait for next year.
Regardless, soaking in the last roller played at the tournament was exciting and so much fun to be around, and with that being said, here’s how the day played out, from my point of view.
Usually, the Cub division at NARCh carries roughly around 4-5 teams. Here in Irvine, there were 7 teams! I’m glad to see that the future of roller hockey is in good hands in California. The hockey that was played was superb and compelling championship games in the gold and silver divisions.
In the gold championship, we had the Corona Bulldogs square off against the Angry Ducks. Both organizations had great showings in the other divisions, with many of them ending with championship wins. Not to mention that both teams were undefeated heading into this one, so I was expecting an exciting hockey game.
It was an offensive game to say the least, with a combined total of 16 goals scored in the hockey game. The Bulldogs were the ones who came out on top, led by Drake Staib, who completed the impossible, winning every single award possible in the 6u division, winning the top scorer and fastest skater in the skills competition, and the High Scorer award for the entire tournament as well.
Safe to say that Drake has a bright future in Roller Hockey.
Now, in the gold division, we had a matchup between the Rancho Cucamonga FireDogs and the OC Marvel. Both teams were such a joy to be around, seeing and interacting with them all around the rink, and many of them, I got to meet them at the knockout booth! They’re all kind and great kids, meaning I was excited to check this one out!
Once again, it was a high-powered game with a lot of great goals, with the FireDogs beating Marvel by a score of 9-6. Personally, it was an awesome sight to see the FireDogs celebrate their victory. Program Director for the FireDogs, Andy Ramirez, is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met around the rinks. The story behind their team name is to help honour the heroes in our community, something that Andy is passionate about, and the fact that he’s so great with his players is icing on the cake.
This picture says it all, just warms your heart. Easily my favorite photo Daryn has ever taken.
The Women’s division was also coming to a close on Sunday. Earlier in the week, NARCh (and PAMA), implemented an all-new 14u girl’s division, and ended off with great results. Hi-Chew defeated PAMA in overtime, in what was an exciting hockey game. Nice to see that the women’s side is growing day by day.
As for the Women’s Platinum/Gold division, the games were great, with many familiar faces playing in those championship games. For starters, in the Platinum division the Pama Labeda Golden Knights (for what seems to be a given), were in the championship game against the Rink Rat Republic.
From the get-go, it looked like Pama was in a league of their own, smoking their way through the competition, straight to the final. It seemed as if there was extra fuel to the fire after they championship loss at East Coast against the Road Runners, and all they had to do was defeat a strong Rink Rat team to finish it off.
Rink Rat is no slouch.
The Republic had an identical record with the Golden Knights and were incredible defensively. Due to the ‘dynasty’ that the Golden Knights currently have, yet, Rink Rat proved many wrong and controlled the pace of the game. Led by goaltender Marisa Trevino, Rink Rat routed the Golden Knights 5-0, on route to the victory in the Platinum championship, pulling off the ‘upset’ (a word I use loosely).
Also playing in a huge role in the victory for the Republic was Laura Veharanta, who took home the High Scorer award. It was been an exciting few weeks for Veharanta, that being, she helped lead Team USA for their third consecutive gold medal at the World Roller Games, and now can add to her collection with this championship dub.
In the Gold division, the Hi-Chew Vets were playing MAVIN to see who would take the women’s Gold title. Hi-Chew has been all over the girls/women’s division. Alex Morrison has developed an excellent program, and with a win would be adding to his already impressive resume.
Hi-Chew Vets goaltender Maya Taveski was the star of the game from my perspective, as when MAVIN was pressing to tie the game up down 2-1 with minutes remaining, it was Taveski who stepped up, making key saves to secure the win.
It’s pretty awesome seeing the Women’s division as competitive as it was this weekend, and in my opinion, I feel that it’s the strongest that it’s ever been, with no indication of stopping anytime soon.
It was a rough road for the NARCh employees that were playing in the Men’s divisions this weekend, myself included. As a last-minute favor, I played in the Men’s Silver division for Pure Maple, and finished 1-3, after allowing a goal in our last game (and only win) to kick us out of the bronze division.
While the team wasn’t very good, it was a great group of guys, and they seemed to have had a lot of fun, which is what is all about. Meanwhile, the big boss was playing in the 40 & Over division and found similar results as I had.
Regardless, it was a great time and the hockey in the championship games were a blast to watch, starting with the 40 & Over division, ironically.
The 40 & Over division is always a great division to watch. All of these guys still have a lot left in the tank, and it seems each time they show no signs of slowing down, turning back the clock. This was clearly the case with the Pama Labeda Golden Knights (who seem to have the best team in every men’s and women’s divisions).
The Golden Knights rolled through every team in the tournament, except for Kunnuk (who was also their opponent in the final), only beating them 2-1 in round robin. Hoping to erase that defeat, the Golden Knights achieved their goal and defeated them in the championship game, 7-3.
As usual, Eddie Limbaga was one of the heavily relied upon players for the Golden Knights, as well as Scott Keohane between the pipes. Watching these players wheel out there gives me the impression that I can be playing this sport at a high-level for a long time (hopefully).
The Men’s Gold game was arguably the most exciting hockey game that I watched.
First off, in the bronze medal game, it was the Capitals Penguins from New Zealand against MAVIN, crazy game to say the least. The Capitals tied the game up at the buzzer to send the game into overtime but had no more magic left to complete the comeback, losing in the extra frame.
The gold medal game was just as incredible.
It was Red Army versus the Rebels from Las Vegas battling it out for the Men’s Gold division. Much like the Capitals, the Rebels needed a powerplay goal in the last minute of the hockey game to send the game into overtime, for one more opportunity to win the game.
In overtime, it was a beautiful play that ended it all.
The Rebels went down on a 2-on-1, and Billy Tufano fed Anthony Robone with a great pass and Anthony buried the one timer with authority, completing the comeback to clinch the Men’s Gold championship.
The Men’s Platinum division was a pretty fun matchup with an ALL LABEDA matchup between the Shakers, and yes, the Golden Knights. The Golden Knights could easily have 2 teams in Pro, and the only reason the Shakers could not play Pro was due to most of their players were still in Barcelona for the World Roller Games.
Since that was the case, the Shakers were an instant contender, while the Golden Knights got to welcome back Tyler Kraft to their team, on loan from the Mission Black Ice. Despite the addition of Kraft, the Golden Knights were unable to get anything going against the Shakers. The Shakers were loaded with European talent, including players I got the pleasure to watch.
Martin Fiala is a start in the Ligue Elite in France, and it’s not every day you got to watch a European roller player, so getting to watch this Czech superstar was pretty cool. Ultimately, Fiala and goaltender Niklas Myllynen were solid, helped lead the Shakers to a 4-3 victory, and the Men’s Platinum title.
The Men’s Bronze game was played just shortly after the Platinum game, where MAVIN were up against the PNHL Killers. The Killers were the last team to clinch a spot into the top 16, after my team just came short of making the playoffs.
The thing with any Men’s division, you never know how good teams really are in round robin. Players are usually still getting used to playing with one another, and the schedule is pretty crazy with so many teams in one division, which was the exact description of how the Killers were.
It was a long day for both teams, playing in their third game of the day, after their wins in the quarters and semis, setting up a wildly entertaining hockey game. MAVIN would come away with the 4-3 victory, winning the first title of the entire program this tournament, while the Killers came oh so close to pulling off a legitimate Cinderella story.
Last but not least, the last game of the 2019 West Coast NARCh Finals in Irvine California was the Men’s Silver final between Sarcone’s Bakery, and yes, the Pama Labeda Golden Knights. I got experience first-hand how good the Golden Knights were, when they rag-dolled my team in Huntington Beach by a score of 6-1, so I knew that the Golden Knights were very, very, good.
But thank god we didn’t play Sarcone’s Bakery, because they were dominant throughout the entire tournament, and especially in this hockey game. Although they finished with a 3-0-1 record (tying the Killers), Sarcone’s Bakery were hot at the right time, beating the Tour Road Runners More Beef in the semis (a team many believed would take home the division), 5-3.
Following the upset win, it seemed that nothing would get in the way of the Bakery winning in the championship, taking it to the Golden Knights. Lou Sarcone was a man on a mission for his team, contributing in every way possible, while goaltender Adrian Orio was sharp when tested.
I almost shed teared up hearing the buzzer sound to conclude the last game of the tournament, as the Sarcone’s Bakery were now Men’s Silver champions.
As for me, that concludes my coverage for the 2019 East Coast and West Coast Finals. Overall, I couldn’t have asked for a better experience (even though I did not have very good luck as a player).
Hope you all were pleased with the articles and graphics, and we’ll see you next year.