Chicago NARCh Regional Recap
By Nick Boyarsky
I’ve been hitting the same locations with Daryn and his crew over the past 3 seasons which has been great, but one of the perks of being a NARCh T.D. is getting to see new (to me) areas where the sport of Roller Hockey is being played and going strong. This weekend would be one of those times as I made Palatine, IL and the Salt Creek Sports Center my temporary home. With a mid-afternoon start on Friday, 18+ hours Saturday, and 12 or so hours Sunday, I would get to know many new faces and teams as the tournament progressed.
As Daryn mentioned in his earlier blog, this is a one rink facility and if I hadn’t been told differently I would’ve assumed it was maybe 4-5 years old due to how clean and bright it is. I came to find out this rink has been around for decades, with a rich roller hockey history. When you’re at a tournament with 25+ teams and only one rink, you REALLY get to spend time seeing how the local teams interact and get along. The community feel and friendly atmosphere at S.C.S.C is awesome. Everyone here works hard to keep the rink running smoothly from the management to the support staff even down to the friendly employees in the concession stand.
With 25 or so teams this wasn’t a HUGE tournament as I said earlier, but it did represent all the way down to 6U and hit every age group up to 18U and Adults (which for this event were combined into one division. Like any qualifier there were some lopsided match ups here and there but there were also some great games with tight battles.
Friday and Saturday were all round robin play other than our two 6U teams; Farm Tough and IRHL (Illinois Roller Hockey League). These little guys and girls played a couple games and battled for a Gold and Silver medal when it was all done. That final medal game saw IRHL come out on top over Farm Tough 9-6, but it was all smiles in the awards ceremony and another 20 or so kids got their first experience playing NARCh which makes them all winners right?
Sunday, we were back at it early with some staffing relief from local NARCh Ref and TD, Jeremy Ellis, who was kind enough to come down and take the early shift allowing Daryn and I a few much needed hours of sleep after two LONG days and nights. By mid-morning we were already into our playoff and medal games starting out with the Atom (8u) final between Alkali Labeda Energy (our host facilities program here at SCSC) and Farm Tough. In round robin these two teams played a close game that saw Energy come out on top 7 to 5. The Championship game would prove to not be as close. At the end of the first it was still a game at 5 to 2 in favor of the Energy, and about 4 minutes into the 2nd Farm Tough would score again making it a one goal game. That one goal turned into two, then three, and by the end of the 2nd a flurry of scoring by the Energy would close it out 11 to 3 with 38 seconds left on the clock.
After some more playoffs in 12U, 14U, and 16U, we went into our Silver and Gold finals for U10, which was our largest division of the weekend. With 6 teams we saw some close games in round robin that ended with a 3 way tie for seeding the 2nd through 4th teams, after Farm Tough Red secured first going undefeated. Chicago Made, Secret Sauce, and Xplosion Red would all earn 4 points in their first 3 games so it was tie breaker time. As all NARCh participants know, our tie breaker after head to head is goals against which is where this one would need to go to seed out. Secret Sauce would break the first tie with 11 goals against. Chicago Made and Xplosion would both tie again both allowing12 goals against, forcing us to the next tie breaker; goals for. Xplosion Red’s 22 GF put them into the 3rd seed spot and Chicago Made’s 18 GF settling them into the top seed in Silver (4th). After some playoff action earlier in the AM we’d see Chicago Made play the Lions in the Silver game and Farm Tough face Secret Sauce in the Gold game. Both games weren’t close contests as Chicago Made took care of the Lions 6 to 0 and Farm Tough Red handled Secret Sauce 6 to 2. Farm Tough’s Noah Ingersoll would take home the Mite Top Goalie shirt and hat with a stunning .917 save % and Xplosion’s Brolen Kooker would nab the top scorer title with 8 points in round robin play.
After the 10U Championships finished up, we headed right into 4 straight finals, and Bantam (16U) was first up. For this division Farm Tough won out their 3 round robin games and had the 1st seed so all they needed to do was sit and wait out the 2v3 game of Energy and Xplosion Red to play out. That game was a back and forth nail biter; Energy put the last one in with around 2 minutes left to play, Xplosion pressed but ran out of clock and Energy would be the ones to face Farm Tough, who bested them 3-1 in round robin. In my opinion, this was one of the best games of the weekend. End of the 1st it looked like the old cliché about beating the same team twice was going to rear its’ head again, as Energy had a nice 3-1 lead and all the momentum scoring 3 unanswered. Peter Dale was having none of it though. Between periods he fired his team up, and they came out to score 3 unanswered goals to gain a 1 goal lead with about 6 minutes remaining. Energy rallied with a goal of their own 30 seconds after tying it up. From there it was a standard roller chess match with neither team taking unnecessary chances. With about a minute left, Farm Tough’s Tanner Schutt let a big slap shot rip from the point that found the back of the net after going through a slight screen and take another gold medal back to the farm.
From there we dropped right into the Squirt (12U). This four team division which saw two ties after round robin, one for 1st and 2nd seed and the other for 3rd and 4th. Xplosion broke the 1-2 seed tie having beat Secret Sauce earlier in round robin, same for the 3-4 seed as Energy had beaten Farm Tough in round robin. The 4-team division format NARCh has used this year is unique and at first I was skeptical but now that I’ve seen it in action a few times, I think it’s solid. Basically the 1 seed gets a buy to the final. 3 and 4 play each other to get a chance to go at the 2nd seed, the winner of that gets the opportunity to take on the 1st seed. So in this case that 3 seed Energy lost to 2 seed Secret Sauce (5 to 1). Xplosion having sat out the day might have underestimated Secret Sauce having beat them 6-3 earlier. If memory serves me Secret Sauce might have been short a few players in that first game of round robin, but whatever the reason, this go around it would not be so easy. No goals were scored for almost the entire 1st, until both teams got on the board 30 seconds apart with less than 3 minutes left. Then again no scoring happened until about ½ way through the 2nd, when Secret Sauce would bury two within 30 seconds of each other. Xplosion tried their best but with a bit over a minute left Secret Sauce would seal the deal with a 4th and final goal. The saying "It's hard to beat a good team twice" is one that holds a lot of truth, and was the case in this championship game.
Our second to last championship of the day was 14U; a division where Farm Tough pretty much dominated. Their only “game” was against their eventual championship game opponents, the JR RPD, where they won 6 to 4. In listening to the JR. RPD kids before the game, they were confident they could play a better game this go around and get Farm Tough when they were feeling confident. They however were not accounting for the competitive nature of Farm Tough’s #82 Tyler Dale, who would go on to bury 4 of the 7 goals that brought us to the 7 to 1 final score. Coach Peter Dale plans to take this team to the NARCh West Finals in Irvine, CA next month. I’m really excited to see how this team matches up with our better west coast teams like Verbero Anarchy, Angry Ducks, and the two solid High Rollers teams. The styles of play are a bit different, but I have a feeling Peter Dale will get his guys to adjust quickly to what might be considered a bit slower and more boring west coast style. Either way it’ll be great to see some new blood in that age group for the West Coast Finals.
The final game of the night was from the Men’s division, which was basically a men’s and midget combo. The two midget teams; Illuminati and Farm Tough had to face two really solid men’s teams with some familiar area pro names like Zack Lane in goal and Peter Messina showing any and all that he does indeed still have it. Both midget teams deserve credit for battling through it all and in their game against one and other had a close one that Illuminati came out on top of by a score of 4 to 3. The division final featured the two actual men’s teams; local team, Energy HC team and Farm Tough Milwaukee. The last game of the tournament would also be our only overtime game, which was fitting considering these two teams played to a 4-4 tie the first time they met early in the tourney Friday Night. The Farm Tough Milwaukee squad was fun to watch, as they were clearly ice guys that wanted to run and gun. They'd find themselves down 3-2 with less than an minute to go, so they pulled the goalie to give themselves a two man advantage. Pro Goalie Zach Lane stopped a barrage of shots in a short period of time until a sneaky backhand got by him to send the game to overtime. Milwaukee would carry the momentum into OT and execute on a two on one. The goal is already up on NARCh's Instagram page if you want to check it out, NARCh Players is the handle. It's also worth noting that the last 3 weeks of tourneys in Irvine, New York, and now here we've seen some of the best players in the sport make appearances at the qualifiers getting sharp for the NARCh FINALS this summer.
That about raps up the weekend. In closing I’d like to thank the Kluzek family who run the Alkali/Labeda Energy HC and keep the SCSC rink running, for being amazing hosts. Rob, who coaches the Energy has built such an amazing community feel program, which we need MANY MORE of to keep growing. Anyway people like them, who are such HUGE roller hockey advocates and supporters are what we’re missing. Their two boys Brandon (who played Men’s) and Griffin (who sadly only got to play two divisions and didn’t get to stick boy for anyone this weekend) are summer tournament staples. Griffin helped us out in a jam this weekend with some score keeping and for how much grief Daryn and I gave him, did a better job than many ‘03’s would have done. If you’re a teenager and think you really love roller hockey, you’e got NOTHING on Griffin, he is a true Roller Dad! If the sport had more devoted roller families like the Kluzek’s it would be even better. I’d also like to acknowledge the incredible work that Peter Dale and Rob Kooker has done in this region for roller hockey. The Farm Tough and Xplosion programs have many very dedicated players and families, and it all starts with the guys at the top that share a vision and lead the way. Having said that, behind every great man there's a great woman, and Lisa Dale and Anne Kooker are the rocks of each program and we hope they enjoyed their Mothers Day at NARCh.