Update from NARCh - July 12th
By Ryan Daubenmire
The NARCh Bear made his first appearance of the tournament, coming out of hibernation—or, depending on who you ask, hopping off a flight from New York— in order to join the 8u skills competition. Brandishing a fresh NARCh Finals jersey over his gargantuan frame and silky coat, the NARCh Bear found his bear-ings quickly. Even though it’s not bear-hunting season, the kids were still on the prowl, and the NARCh Bear braved the occasional spear with roar and a smile, demonstrating impressively dexterous skating for a four-legged creature and bringing even more excitement to what was the biggest skills event of the tournament so far.
It's definitely heated up a bit, both literally and figuratively—I think the last day or two have been the busiest thus far for the NARCh staff— but it’s resulted in some phenomenal games and highlights. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so a video must be worth several million. For a look at the 10u championship games, check out the highlight video on the NARCh website! 10u Video
The 16u Platinum division was without a doubt the most interesting, and most difficult to predict, so far. No team won all four games in round robin, and the eventual champions went 2-2 before winning three consecutive playoff rounds to capture the platinum title. Going into playoffs, it really was anyone’s for the taking. The number one seed, Unify Konixx Black Ice, was upset in their first-round quarterfinal matchup, losing to the eighth-seeded North Shore Zulu. In the semifinals, the Konixx Outcasts dispatched of the Zulu, however, while the IRHL Golden Knights defeated the Tour OC Blades Black in the other semi. The final, in fitting embodiment of the division, was difficult to predict at any point and was extremely back and forth, with each team holding, and relinquishing, a lead at various points. Nearing the end of the game, Konixx looked to be in control, but IRHL scored with three minutes remaining, tying the game. With the goal, the championship match appeared destined for overtime, but the IRHL Golden Knights scored another late goal, taking the lead with under a minute left and winning the cup in doing so.
The 16u Gold division was similarly difficult to predict, with the only team that went undefeated in round robin losing in the semi. In the final, the Labeda Mayhem took on the Colorado Storm, winning 3-2 in a close game. In the Silver division, an all-Labeda final had the Labeda Mayhem beating the Labeda Warriors White 4-3.
The 21u Platinum final was a fast-paced, end-to-end game that provided plenty of speed and offense. Skittles, the odds-on favorites in the division, aimed to capture the 21u Platinum cup in their last year or eligibility. They had most of their pro squad intact and coasted through round robin without much of a challenge. They seemed to be in trouble after a slow start in their semifinal matchup, but their offensive prowess bailed them out and they took a commanding late lead, winning 8-4. The final featured explosive talent and did not disappoint. The Skittles play a strong possession game and are built primarily of roller players—skaters such as Team Canada Inline forward Dylan Abbamont and SoCal native Grayson Yada. Most, if not all of them, have experience in NARCh Pro.
The San Diego Rockets, on the other hand, are a younger team—one that is familiar with roller but also boasts significant ice hockey pedigree. Headlining their roster was Rangers’ draft pick Ty Hendricks, Michigan State forward Christian Kim, Dartmouth commit Jason Stefenak, and Army commits Ben and Jack Ivey. The Rockets came flying out of the gate, taking a commanding 4-0 lead early in the game. It was questionable whether Skittles would be able to climb back after another slow start, but they began to do so, only to stall after giving up a shorthanded goal. Credit to them, however: they remained composed and took over the game from that point on. Skittles forward Jonathan Panisa was flying, winning just about every battle and getting to every loose puck first. The game carried over to OT, only for a high stick to result in a three-minute power play. The Skittles did an admirable job killing, but ultimately were unable to sustain the Rocket’s potent powerplay, and the Rockets took the game 6-5 in OT.
In the 21u gold final, ATL took on the Labeda Warriors. Tour Roadrunner Miles Harrington once again looked dominant, completing the tournament with over a 2 points per game on ATL’s way to a 5-1 win.
19u girls is currently in progress and is just now finishing up round robin. This division has a lot of disparity, as you have players ranging from 13 years old to 19-year-old women’s pro players. Regardless of the outcome of any game, it’s great experience for younger and older players alike, and it’s wonderful to see women’s roller hockey continue to grow. With Daryn’s creation of the first Women’s Pro division, 19u will undoubtedly continue to flourish, as younger players have another objective to aspire to. Through two games, the NCI Phoenix Baewatch and the Pama Labeda Golden Knights both sat undefeated but were scheduled to face off in the final round robin. Pama came out victorious, ending their round robin undefeated and set up what will be an interesting playoff.
Pro, for both men and women, gets started tomorrow, so be sure to check out the livestream with broadcaster Jeremy Ellis! Women’s Pro begins at 9:10am, while Men’s Pro starts at noon! NARCh YouTube