The Mettle to Medal.

By Lonny Lovins

Sunday was moving day for a lot of teams.  Some packed up and went home, some put in brilliant efforts in their round robin games, while others punched their tickets to our exciting finals.  Here is a rundown of the divisions that finished today, as well as a couple recaps of my favorite games.

CUBS – While this division might bring the fewest amount of teams, our rising stars always bring out the most fans.  Often times the cheering is so thunderous for these little tykes, you might think the pros are playing.  The round robin was a very close as only 1 goal against separated the top seeded SJ Inline Sharks White, and the SJ Inline Sharks Black.  After playing to a tie in their first game, the SJIS Black team found themselves playing against the SJIS White team in the final.  The scoring started early and remained steady for the SJIS White team as they scored less than a minute into the game.  They continued to pour on the pressure, scoring 3 more times and and carrying a 4-1 lead going into the second period.  It looked as if the game might continue in this fashion, as the white team again scored early in the second period.  However, the black team found their legs and scored the next 3 goals to make a game out of it.  Unfortunately the late push could not overcome the hole that the SJIS black team had put themselves in.  The final score: SJIS White 6 to 5 over SJIS Black.

SQUIRT GOLDSquirt gold consisted of our top 4 teams out of the round robin.  While the top two teams were easy to seed thanks to both having 3-0 records in the prelims, the next 2 teams to round out the gold division were a lot harder to find.  Seeds 3-8 were separated by 2 goals against.  After going through a majority of our tie breakers, we finally had our gold playoffs set.  Our 1 v 4 would be the #1 HB Alkali Militia against the #4 seeded KIHA Warriors.  Our seeding was clearly an indication of how close these games should be, and this game did not disappoint, as HB squeaked out a 4-3 win, propelling them to the final.  Our 2v3 game, showcased the Revision Revolution Black squad against an upstart CCM Bulldog team.  This was a hard played game, as both teams felt they belonged in the final, however it was the Revolution that grabbed the reigns to the game, and skated to a 4-1 victory.

The final had all the makings of a good game on paper.  1st seed vs 2nd seed for the Winternationals title in Squirt Gold.  The Revolution came out flying, scoring quickly and never letting off the gas.  They carried a solid 2-0 lead into the 2nd half, and never looked back.  They continued to put on the pressure and hammer home the goals as they breezed to a 7-0 victory.

SQUIRT SILVER – The road to the silver final was a minefield.  There were so many closely matched teams that it could have been anyone’s for the taking.  2 teams stood out above the rest, and that was the Delta River Rats, who were seeded 5th overall in the Squirt division, and the Silicon Valley Quakes who were seeded 6th.  These teams were feeling a little bummed about not making the Squirt gold playoffs, and they took out their anger on all of the other teams in the division on their way to the final.  The final looked like it was going to be a snoozer as the Quakes got on the board late in the first period to break a scoreless tie.  The Quakes would add a second goal and hold a 2-0 advantage going into the half.  The Delta River Rats would not go away.  They came out hard in the 2nd period, finally breaking through and getting on the board about mid way through the 2nd.  With blood in the water, the River Rats continued their relentless assault on the Quakes net, but their goal tender was up to the task.  Late in the 2nd period, the River Rats would get the equalizer and send this game into over time.  Overtime was a back and forth affair as each team had their chances.  Finally momentum started to build, and the River Rats looked like they might complete the miracle comeback, but it would be the Quakes who would seize the moment as they scored late into the first over time period to bring home the gold.  Final Score: Quakes 3 – River Rats 2 in OT.

PEEWEE GOLD – Peewee gold was a little bit easier to figure out, as the teams were separated by a few more points.  While the seeding was easier for the Peewee gold games, the road to the final was not.  The top seeded Tsunami Red team beat a very good Hockey House Army team to get into the finals, while the KIHA Warriors came out a little flat, and lost to a very hungry CCM Bulldogs team.  This gave us our final game matching the Tsunami Red team against the CCM Bulldogs Yellow team.  Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, they used up most of their magic in the playoff game against KIHA, because they had none left for the final.  The Tsunami team controlled the pace of play and the game, scoring 2 goals early, and adding a couple of empty net goals late.  Final Score:  Tsuanami Red 4, CCM Bulldogs Yellow 0.

PEEWEE SILVER – The Peewee silver games had a fun finale, as the 7th seeded SJ Inline Sharks upset a couple of teams to get into the final, while the Militia came in and steamrolled their way to the final game.  The Militia found the net early in the game and built a 2 goal lead, unfortunately for them, those were the only goals they would score.  The SJ Inline Sharks would come roaring back, scoring 5 unanswered and taking home more hardware for their program.  Final Score: SJ Inline Sharks 5, Militia 2.

BANTAM GOLD – Bantam Gold gave us one of the best finals games of the night, as the KIHA Warriors played against the Hockey House Army Bantam team.  Hockey House got on the board quickly scoring less than 2 minutes into the game.  KIHA not to be outdone would come back scoring 3 goals late in the period.  They would take the 3-1 lead into the 2nd period.  Hockey House opened up the scoring in the 2nd period early, tightening up the game a bit.  The equalizer would come from hockey house mid way through the period, and the rest of the game would be a dog fight.  There were a ton of chances for both squads late in the game, but both goalies were equal to the task.  It would take over time to settle the game.   Hockey House would take an ill advised penalty early in OT, and it wouldn’t take long for KIHA to capitalize.  The Hockey house goaltender made 3 or 4 initial saves, but it was just too much for him to handle, as the KIHA forward buried the rebound and captured the gold medal for his team.  Final Score: KIHA Warriors 4, Hockey House Army 3.

BANTAM SILVER – The Bantam Silver final featured a couple of grindy teams that found their way through Bantams in the same fashion.  Bender Nation played a tough schedule and had to put their heads down and push through a clouded playoff pool to get to the final.  The Cal Rollers found themselves in a similar situation as they also had to navigate daintily through the playoffs to secure a spot in the final.  The final didn’t play out quite as spectacularly as was hoped, as the Bender Nation team got on the board with 3 first period goals.  It was all they would need, as they coasted easily to a 7-2 victory.  Final Score:  Bender Nation 7, Cal Rollers 2.

MEN’S PLATINUM – The Men’s Platinum Division featured 5 teams, 2 of which had won the NARCh finals gold before.  The 5 teams were strong but only two would make it out of the division and get to compete for the gold medals and the adult beverage drinking goblet.  The two teams that played the best and found themselves in the final, were the local team The Happy Campers and their southern California rival, Red Army.  Both of these teams have a lot of offensive punch, but it was the defenses and the goaltenders that shined in this final.  Red Army would take a 1-0 lead mid way through the first, and add another goal shortly after.  The rest of the period would be hard fought on both ends but no more goals would be scored.  Red Army would skate into the 2nd period up 2 – 0.  THC would fight hard in the 2nd, throwing a ton of chances at the net, and even adding a goal, but it would be to no avail as Red Army would play a tight checking game, and cling to their 2-1 lead and ultimately raise the cup.  Final Score : Red Army 2, THC 1.

MEN’S SILVER - Our Men’s Silver final featured two foreign teams playing for gold medals and glory.  The Hockey House Army team from Canada, and the Alkali South America team.  This game seemed to start off rather slowly as both teams seemed to be feeling the other out.  Neither team wanted to break as they continued to regroup and never really push the pace of play.  This would result in the first period ending in a 0-0 tie.  In the 2nd period, the Hockey House Army team came out with a different swagger, as they scored 2 quick goals.  Judging by the first period, everyone assumed that this game was over at that point, but the Alkali team would come right back with 3 straight goals in 3 minutes to shockingly take a lead.  Hockey House Army would push the play from this point forward throwing everything they could at the net, but nothing seemed to be dropping for them.  Alkali would help the Hockey House cause, as they took two bad penalties late in the game to give Hockey House the opening they needed.  Hockey House would score with 12 seconds left in the game to force OT.  OT would end rather quickly, as Hockey House would score on a bad angle goal and take some hardware North of the border.

MEN’S BRONZE – This division had a ton of teams that were playing for the first time in a NARCh tournament together.  As I mentioned the other night, it is a lot of fun seeing new faces come into the sport no matter what the age might be.  While they may not necessarily be new to the sport, new to the tournament scene is just as cool.  While I know a few of the players on the teams in the finals, many of the guys are a mystery to me.  The finals brought us the SD Beemers and Merge.  Merge underachieved a bit through the prelims and found themselves in the Bronze finals, where they finally found their stride.  Unfortunately for the SD Beemers they were at the mercy of Merge the entire game.  Merge were relentless and wanted to bring back a little of the pride they lost earlier in the round robin.  They rained down 8 goals and cruised easily to an 8-2 victory.  Final Score: Merge 8, SD Beemers 2.

That was our action from the finals on Sunday.  Tomorrow I will bring you the rest of our finals games, and a write up on our Pro games.