By Alex Morrison
The last weekend of NARCh Qualifiers has presented us with a great venue on the west coast of Canada in City Centre Park on Vancouver Island. 25 teams converged on Eagle Ridge Community Centre getting their seeds for the NARCh Finals. Here is how the weekend went:
The youngest of our competitors this weekend showed some heart, skill, and hard work, as each team played 4+ games in 24 hours! The newest team to tournament hockey came from Langley, BC, the WC Warriors 01. They hung around with some teams with quite a bit more experience than them, scoring a few exciting goals along the way.
In the end, Eagle Ridge and North Shore Zulu were the 2 teams battling it out for the Mite title. The two times they had previously faced one another, Eagle Ridge won by 4 and 3 goals respectively. Zulu went into the final game hoping they could figure out the Eagle Ridge netminder Dylan Garand. He turned out to be the wall once again, and goals by Mason Piercey, Dayton Clarke, and a pair by Grady Nursey were more than enough to seal the deal for the home team. Thomas Kusnierczyk scored for the Zulu in the losing effort.
Pee Wee Division
Pound for pound, this was the most talented division we saw this weekend. Filled with 6 teams, 4 of them were true Platinum teams, 1 a solid Gold level team, and 1 was a Squirt Platinum team playing up! Needless to say, there were some great games over the last couple days. The of the 3 top teams, one of them, the Central City Stars, played their two games on Saturday with 2 different 10 year old goaltenders that they scraped up at the last second, as their regular goalie couldn’t make the trip. While they ended up the #4 seed going into the playoffs, they would be a great Platinum team with their regular goalie.
The Platinum Final featured the other two Platinum level teams, in North Shore Zulu A and Eagle Ridge Gold. If you would have asked me yesterday, I would say that Zulu would take this one, and also have a pretty good shot at winning the Platinum Division in San Jose next month. This morning’s events put a bit of doubt in my mind though. Eagle Ridge and Zulu played their last round robin game against one another. Eagle Ridge’s Cory Hatcher and Brandon Wilson put them on the board twice in a minute, as they took a 2-0 lead that they never relinquished, winning what I would classify as an “upset”, 3-1. The rematch started off quickly, as Troy Ring of Zulu scored just over a minute in. Hatcher of Eagle Ridge evened the score a minute later, but it was all Zulu from there. Ring scored 2 more to complete the hat trick, and goalie James Peakman stood on his head to make some great saves along the way. Look out for these guys in San Jose, Zulu won this one, 5-1.
In the Gold Final, North Shore Zulu B came out on to the floor pumped up and ready to go, and it showed in their play. From the opening faceoff, they were flying up and down the rink, scoring four goals that honestly should have been easy saves for a goalie. Nevertheless, goals they were, giving them a 4-0 lead on the Central City Stars in the first half. The second half started out all Stars, as they were firing the puck at the Zulu netminder. After scoring a nice goal off the left post, it appeared that momentum had swung in their favor. Zulu stopped that pretty quickly, as they scored a breakaway goal to put them back up by 4. They added another to win this one easily, 6-1.
4 solid teams competed for placement in this group. The most balanced of all the divisions this weekend, the 4th seed had tied the 1st seed during round robin play.
The Platinum Final featured 2 solid teams in Eagle Ridge and North Shore Zulu A. These teams had played a 4-2 game Friday, where Zulu worked just a touch more than Eagle Ridge to win that one. Saturday, Eagle Ridge was without one of their top players in the game, and had that much more of an uphill battle to fight. They started off well, as Anthony DiLallo scored to give Eagle Ridge the lead early on. Zulu answered back quickly, as Gavin Gould stuffed one in the back of the net. Zulu ended up pouring it on, with 6 different goal scorers in a 6-3 win. DiLallo had the hat trick for Eagle Ridge.
In the Gold Final, Zulu B and Delta Revolution had a rematch of their testy game from yesterday, where players had to be separated at the end. Liam Smith of North Shore led off the scoring less than 2 minutes into the match. Matthew Olsen of Delta matched the effort with a nice goal, and the two teams traded off goals again to go into the half knotted up at 2. Once the second half began, Zulu B turned on the afterburners, netting 4 goals, highlighted by a pair from Quinton Blois. The end of this was once again pretty feisty, as teams struggled to control their emotions. Zulu won this one 6-3.
The largest group of the weekend, these 12 teams invaded the arena for a long weekend of hockey. It looked like a roller hockey all-star event for a while, as Gerry St. Cyr, Kirk French, Max Grassi, and Tom Woods were all playing on teams here.
The top four teams all ended the initial round undefeated, but none did quite as well as the Back Door Bandits, who won each game they played 8-0. The other 3 teams, Adrenaline, Purple Rain, and the team they matched up against in the final, the Trailer Park Boys, all gave up at least 9 goals on their road to the playoffs. The Bandits are the team I discussed in Friday’s blog, with 3 newly crowned IIHF Inline World Champions on the team, so it really was not a surprise to me to see them do so well on the path to the final. In the Platinum Final, the Bandits started out strong, building an early 3-0 lead on goals by Grassi, Woods, and Paul Patterson. They never looked back, scoring 5 more en route to an 8-3 win.
In the gold final, the Eurocan Panthers and Delta faced off against one another after the Panthers handled Gerry St. Cyr and the Eagle Ridge Seniors, and Delta squeaked by Black Label Supremes in their respective semifinal games. Delta went into the playoffs as the 9 seed, and really didn’t look like they were going to make much of a splash, but after an unfortunate incident with someone taking their jerseys away from them, John Howard of Eagle Ridge was kind enough to loan them their spare green jerseys. It turned out that green was their lucky color, as they rolled through the playoffs, and even got by the Panthers in the final on their way to the Gold Division title.
That’s a wrap for the 2012 qualifying season. I’d like to thank Gerry, John, and the entire staff at City Centre Park for their hospitality. We will see everyone next month in San Jose!