2023 NARCh Pro Preview
NARCh Pro Preview - by Ryan Daubenmire
14 Teams will be battling it out in the 2023 NARCh Pro Division.
Unify Konixx Black Ice
The defending champions, Black Ice, return to California looking to capture their fourth NARCh Pro title.
On defense, they’re led by one of the sport’s top players in PJ Dimartino, who is coming off a successful first season of professional ice hockey in the SPHL. Dimartino is a defenseman capable of suffocating the opposition’s best, while also quarterbacking the offense, and is always a player to watch. Tyler Kraft may be the first name that comes to mind when one thinks of this Black Ice team, and he is sure to be an offensive catalyst. Between the pipes Mike Maczynski returns as the starting goaltender, and, after an injury that caused him to miss the last two summers, KJ Tiefenworth looks to once again be a difference-maker. Though not quite the big name like Dimartino and Kraft, Derek Schultz cemented himself as a clutch performer with the championship GWG last summer, and the core group has been further complemented by young up-and-comers in Litsko and Gerger and West Coast additions Kyle Mooney and Stephen Verstegen.
While the loss of forwards John Schiavo and Billy Pascalli are big blows, it would be a dire mistake for anyone to count out Black Ice as a real threat to take home the title once again; they are as hazardous an opponent as their name would suggest.
Pama Labeda Golden Knights
The PAMA Labeda Golden Knights need very little introduction. From their garish chrome gold helmets to their explosive offensive ability, PAMA is sure to stand out in the pro division. Boasting some of the best players in the world, the Knights are led by Team USA Captain Travis Noe, who is truly a dominant force. Going down the lineup, he’s followed by an abundance of other dynamic players in Junior Cadiz, Itan Chavira, John Siemer, and rising star Kevin Mooney. While the Knights will be without Anaheim Ducks forward Max Comtois, they arguably still possess the most firepower of any team at NARCh. Look for Kyle Mayhew, fresh off signing an AHL deal, to make a big impact on defense alongside underrated shutdown D Brett Olinger.
Though they came up just short last summer, the Golden Knights are no doubt a favorite to win the division; this is a team that sees anything short of a championship as a failure.
Carshield comes to NARCh Finals looking to prove they are one of the top teams in the division. Carshield’s group of strong players is headlined by Detroit Red Wings forward Adam Erne. It’s not uncommon to see NHL players compete at NARCh, but Adam Erne’s game seems to have translated to roller exceptionally well, and he has proven himself a dominant force in the past, putting up 18 points in 4 round robin games at StateWars 22. Behind him, ECHL forwards and longtime roller players Garret Ross and Matt Berry make this a dangerous group. The D core is led by captain Corey Hodge, fresh off his Italian league championship. Carshield’s biggest strength, however, is undoubtedly new-addition Troy Redmann. Arguably the best goaltender in the world, Reddman has won everything there is to win in roller hockey and gives this group as good a chance as any.
While PAMA and Black Ice may be the first names that come to mind as potential champions, the Tour Roadrunners have been in the mix each of the last few years and captured the title in 2019. They are a serious threat to any team in the division. The Roadrunners are led by star defenseman Joey Dimartino; despite his diminutive size, he is inarguably a top player in the sport and is a force at both ends of the rink. He returns to the states after representing team USA in Argentina last December and completing another successful season with Tres Cantos in the Spanish Elite League. Accompanying him are Team USA’s two other youngest players: NCRHA champions and young stars Nicholas Dellamorte and Max Halverson. With the additions of defenseman Alex MacDonald and forward Brandon Glover, the Roadrunners aspire to transition from an elite young group to a consistent powerhouse in the division.
HOAPA NCI Phoenix
The only Northern California based team in the division, the Phoenix aim to build on last year’s finals. In net, former PAMA Golden Knights goaltender Blake Rayfield returns to the division, motivated and taking the reins after a short hiatus. Look for up-and-comer Don Carter to make an impact for this team with his strength on the puck and cannon of a shot. He’s accompanied by ECHL 20-goal-scorer Ethan Somoza and crafty forward Greg Hughes who, along with a young and developing group from NorCal, aim to take the next step forward.
The only fully international team in the division, the Vancouver Blazers come to California having won the Vancouver Sea to Sky Pro tournament and the Langley Hockey House Anchor Invitational Pro tournament. ECHL defenseman Elijah Vilio and Team Canada forwards Matt Garb, Corey Hatcher, Kade Vilio, and Caleb Vilio will do much of the heavy lifting for this team, and the team hopes to take their experience playing against generational NHL prospect Connor Bedard and Columbus Blue Jacket’s forward Kent Johnson and use it to shut down some of the world’s top roller players.
The Skittles are a young, fast, and tenacious team that are tough to play against. This team possess an excess of speed and grit. In net, Charlie Robinson is one to watch, as he consistently keeps his team in games with his acrobatic saves; he’s proven on several occasions that he can steal games for this Skittles team. On forward they are led by team Canada forward Dylan Abbamont, who returns from playing in the Spanish Elite League, and recent addition Max Scott, who will be representing Brown University’s NCAA D1 team starting this Fall. To fill the whole left by the loss of speedster Jaden Guzman, Team Canada and ECHL defenseman Kyle Soper joins the mix.
3PIC Society is one of several new teams to enter the mix this year. The roster is comprised of many junior and college ice players, several of whom competed with Vegan Pig last summer. The team looks to play a fast, heavy game and is headlined by NCAA D1 forward Andrew DeCarlo, NCRHA 1st Team All-Star Jackson Wozniak, Connecticut College center Lukas Uhler, and Slovak 1 League defenseman Sean Giles.
Tour OC Blades
The Blades program, based in Southern California, will have teams at Finals ranging from the 6u to Pro divisions. Led by coach and captain Skylar Hoar, they aim to build a program wherein their many youth teams feed into the pro team—and the pro team serves as a goal to aspire to. Between the pipes is roller hockey legend and former team Canada goaltender Brett Leggat. Leggat will certainly provide a calming, veteran presence for this group and is still capable of spectacular saves. In front of him, former Mudcat and Team USA star Skylar Hoar returns to the pro division, aiming to guide the next generation of young players.
Rinkster contains a mix of various established pros that now come together under the Rinkster name. Juaquin Chavira leads the team; despite being one of the older players in the division, Juaquin is still a phenomenal possession player and the knowledge and experience he brings is invaluable. Alongside him is Hungary-native and French league MVP David Jansco. The lanky forward captured the French Ligue Elite championship alongside his Rethel Diables teammates in a season that saw him also be named an All-Star and the Most Valuable Player at the Coupe De France. Joining this squad are other players of note in ECHL forward and 2021 NARCh Pro Skills Fastest Skater winner Paul Boutoussov and former-Konixx pro Eric Purcell.
Mavin boasts a mishmash of professional ice and roller players. On the roller side, David Baldwin returns to the pro division after several years of playing in the Spanish Elite league and having captured two consecutive Ligue Elite titles with Tenerife. Nate Kellen brandishes the most impressive resume of any on this squad, captaining Ferris State’s NCAA D1 team and completing several seasons in the ECHL and one in the Slovakian pro league. Joining him is USHL and R.P.I. winger Rory Herman.
The Wizards are a veteran group based out of St. Louis. Several of them have played for Alkali RPD and/or Marsblade in years past, and they return for their self-proclaimed “farewell tour.” Kyle Novak is one of the biggest names on this roster, having won everything from roller world championships with Team USA to European league championships and NARCh titles. Accompanying him is former Clarkson University center T.J. Moor, retired Stockton Thunder forward Tyler Maxwell, and Manchester Storm winger Frankie Melton.
Farm Tough is another young group entering the pro mix for the first time. The team, coached by 6-Time Roller World Champion and the founder of USA clinics, Peter Dale, consists of a mix of younger talent and veteran presence. The team is led by Eddie Matsushima of the ECHL’s Tulsa Oilers. A few of the other names on this roster have played pro before, but they now look to step into bigger roles. Lindenwood defenseman Nathan Durrans, goaltender Marky Hager, Sean Maude, and Tyler and Dillon Dale look to continue their college success as they now enter the pro division.
The next generation of young Roadrunners, Team Kemistry will be the youngest team in the division. Coach Vio takes another young group— this time ranging from 04 to 01 birth years—and transitions them to the pro division. The team features several recent Team USA Junior Men’s players in Aidan Boyle, Cole Taylor, Matthew Fischer, Samuel Phillips, and Christian Pietromonaco, as well as Lindewood commit Luke DiPasquale. After coming up just short to Chinese Tapei as Team USA in Buenos Aires, a young group hopes to take advantage of their speed and youth when they touch down in Irvine.