First taste of NARCh Pro in '17
By Jeremy Ellis
While the 2017 NARCh season got underway earlier today, the fly boys of the PRO division embarked on Huntington Beach from around the country and Canada. Seven teams are here vying for the $5,000 in the PRO purse.
Each team has taken the floor at least once as of this writing, with Rink Rat playing twice and PAMA and Black Ice in the middle of their second game. Each time plays 4 times with 5 teams advancing to the playoffs. The #1 seed is premium in the division as they get a bye to the semi-final round. With that number of teams making the playoffs, tiebreakers will be of utmost importance. Points are crucial, but goals against are watched with a keen eye by the pro coaches. It is not uncommon to see a team not pull the goaltender in a 1 or 2 goal game late to prevent that empty net goal that can be a difference in seeding.
There has always been a good deal of player movement within this division, especially the past couple years as new sponsors have entered the arena. The Verbero Cypress have one of the biggest sets of new faces. The stars of last year’s NARCh Finals run have changed jerseys, sporting the colors of Rink Rat. Itan and Juaquin Chavira, Jerry Osterkamp, and Junior Cadiz are all now on the Rink Rat roster. The fresh look was evident in the first game as they fell to the Black Ice 6-2. Rink Rat was without Juaquin for the first tilt, but he was back on the floor for the second game against the Konixx Outcasts. His calm demeanor and floor presence provided a stabilization that was noticeable. The new faces began to gel and the result was a 5-3 victory.
The two most impressive wins so far were had by the Tour Mudcats and the PAMA Labeda Cyclones. These two teams have the luxury of the smallest roster changeover. A consistent unit is huge in a Winternationals that features some fill in players scattered amongst the summer regulars. The Cyclones have the usual cast of characters with Travis Noe and Shawn Gawrys leading the charge. The Mudcats sport the steadiest and longest tenured of the bunch in CJ Yoder, while mixing in some new faces along the way. Will Heinze had one of the prettiest goals of the day dangling two defenders and the goalie in a penalty filled 5-1 win over the Verbero Cypress.
As I finish up here, the Black Ice just went final with a 2-1 win over the Cyclones. Black Ice coach Jason Muro had talked to me about some of his missing players, the Gerger brothers specifically, but some young talent has filled in with Max Halvorsen donning the purple and gold for this weekend. Black Ice moves to the top of the standings so far on Day 1 with 4 points after two wins.
Still to come in tonight are the Mudcats taking on the Kamagraf Coalition and the Konixx Outcasts versus the Verbero Cypress. The second game being key as both teams look to pick up their first two points of the event. A 0-2 hole is a gigantic deficit to overcome at this point. These guys will get a good night sleep and some rest tomorrow as the first Pro game isn’t set to drop the puck until 5pm on Saturday.