Highlights from NorCal Cup
Written by Nick Boyarsky
There’s only a handful of roller hockey markets across North America that could pack a 3 rink facility over a holiday weekend without relying on teams traveling in, and Nor Cal is one of them. While a large percentage of the roller hockey world takes the fall, winter, and early spring off to play ice hockey, the roller faithful of Northern California have very little off-season.
I’ve mentioned in other NARCh blogs I’ve done from this very venue (Silver Creek Sports Plex) that the talent pool in Northern California has definitely benefited from the nearly year round roller hockey being played here. This past weekend proved that once again. The top teams in Mite through Midget can go toe to toe with a majority of the top programs in North America, and they’re able to stay sharp by playing each other at events like Nor Cal Cup.
As Daryn said in his earlier post, this tournament’s crew was lean and mean; himself, his son Caden, and I. All 3 of us hustled and worked hard to put on what we later felt was an outstanding event. Daryn, as always put a ton of work into his photos and videos that we all all love to browse through on Facebook, Caden held down the merchandise table in between shooting some video, preparing the medals and prizes for awards ceremonies and running the occasional errand for Daryn or I. I was mainly in charge of check in, stats and updating the boards, along with selling the occasional set of Konixx wheels from the merch table. I remember back to the first event I worked for Daryn, how nervous all of that made me; not wanting to make any mistakes. Now, almost a year later it’s become second nature.
Because we were all hustling to do our respective duties, I didn’t get to spectate as much as I’d have liked to, so giving you highlights and division summaries wouldn’t be doing them justice. Instead, I’ll provide you with some observations on things I did notice while spending my Thanksgiving weekend with the fine folks of Northern California:
- No knock on ANY other coach here in Nor Cal or elsewhere, but if I had a son or daughter new to roller hockey, my choice for their first coach would be Dave Inoyue from the Silicon Valley Quakes. He’s a phenomenal teacher of the game for the little guys and girls, always has a smile on his face (even at 6:50AM) and most importantly makes sure to put an equal amount of importance in how his teams plays, not whether they win or lose… I’m a fan. I’m sure this mentality has more than a little to do with why his own two sons (Michael and Daniel) are such talented players.
- Game official Richard “Dickie” Lane is just as ridiculous of a human being in Northern California as he is in Southern California.
- Nor Cal Elite, was by far the best dressed program off the rink, sporting their recently delivered custom T’s and hoodies from Wheel. (shameless plug), but on top of that, they LOVE to support their Elite brothers and sister; so much so that a cattle prod is needed to get them off the benches of their other teams games.
- Roller Hockey is alive and well in Bend Oregon. The Bend Bullets U10 team was a blast to watch play and their families couldn’t be friendlier. Their men’s team, captained by my good friend (and past player of mine for many years) Chris “Tired ‘Tinez” Martinez, played a hell of a tournament and I’m betting surprised more than a few by showing up in the JR/Men’s final giving the very stacked Nor Cal Extreme a solid contest.
- The BBQ chicken pizza from High Five might have played a large role in my deciding to work this event.
- I didn’t get to see more than a few passing minutes of most games, but I did get to see the majority of our last game of the weekend; the Squirt Championship featuring the Jr Sharks and the Silicon Valley Quakes. As Daryn said during their awards ceremony, we saved the best game for last. This one seemed pretty much wrapped up for the Sharks with less than half of the second period remaining they had all the momentum and a comfortable 4-2 lead over the Quakes. To their credit, the Quakes weren’t ready to mail it in and proved that old cliché about a 2 goal lead being the most dangerous one in the sport. With two hard fought goals coming at 6:25 and 1:58 left in the second, they’d force it to OT. Like most over time’s this one was no different. With lot’s of chances, some big defensive plays and a few desperation saves by both goalies, it would all end when the JR Sharks managed to finally bury and take it home. In watching this game, I found myself specifically watching the JR Sharks #5 Aiyhden Martinez who logs a ton of playing time, and for good reason. He’s got the full package; stamina, feet, hands, and hockey smarts. Keep an eye out for him in the years to come folks he looks like a mini pro player out there already. Maybe that’s just good bloodlines though? His coach (and father) Logan Martinez logged plenty of NARCh Pro games in the past and has obviously instilled a lot of that in Aiyhden’s play.
- Nor Cal legend (and constant band aid) Christian Acosta is just good no matter who he plays with. I’m lucky enough to have him as a part of my own teams at many tournaments, but Christian will always find a team if he’s available. This weekend he played with Revision Revolution Midget and JR teams and looked just as skilled as ever. It doesn’t seem to matter who he’s surrounded with, he manages to make an impact in every game, but more importantly makes those around him even better… plus he lets me give him constant grief while smiling through it. Congrats on making it through a weekend of hockey without getting injured Christian!
- Jose Mondragon, Yoshi Chai, Rick Mondrigal, and the other coaches from the Revision Revolution work their butts off! Their program had a combined 10 teams playing, representing at least one team in EVERY division, Atom through Mens/JR. I don’t think there were many games slots this weekend that didn’t feature at least one Revolution team. By far my favorite team of theirs to watch is the ’01 team, who just keep getting better (and bigger) every season. I’m excited to see them and the Militia from Huntington Beach battle again this summer. Their last game at West Finals was one for the ages.
- Brian Ganz, (another product of Nor Cal) is one of my favorite players in the game of roller hokey. He’s one of the most underrated guys in the sport. He skated with the Verbero Voltage JR/Men’s team this weekend and as always, really LOVES to back check… like a lot. I think sometimes he turns the puck over just so he can back check and go get it back. He also has my # when it comes to the “Dill” game.
- One thing I always get a huge kick out of is listening to the “Roller-Math” being done by parents and players alike, as I’m updating the first two teams scores from the last batch of round robin games. There could be 10 more games to go, but there’s always the handful of Nostradamus Dads (and sometimes Mom’s) who by seeing that one score, will proceed to spell out not only how every other game still left to play will go, but who will seed where (without taking into account any tie breakers, head to head scores, etc). One division in particular this weekend had a situation like this. As I updated the boards I listened to an intense conversation between 3 sets of parents who were planning their evening around what time they had to be back at the rink for their playoff games the next morning. There was a fair amount of debate and different scenarios spelled out and argued. It finally took the wisdom of a 10 year old kid to say, “Dad, why don’t we just wait and see who wins the other games”. They all looked at him as if to say, “isn’t that cute”, and continued the debate. For the record, NOTHING ended the way they predicted, had they gone off their guesses they’d have missed their morning game. Sometimes it pays to listen to the 10 year old?
OK that’s about all I’ve got for this one. I always feel a little regret every time I have to leave the area I grew up in, but at least this time I do so knowing I’ll be back this summer spending 12 glorious days at the ‘Plex for the 2017 NARCh West Finals!!!