Women's Pro Preview
By Celeste Loyatho
Build it and they will come.
Two years ago when Daryn and I sat in the back office at Irvine Inline during NARCh Finals I asked him why he hadn’t made a Women’s Pro division and offer a cash prize. He told me he didn’t want to put the title Pro on a division just for the sake of doing it. He wanted to make sure there were enough teams that were actually Pro. My response to that was, “The talent is there. Build it and they will come.”
Last year Daryn built it. He recognized it was time for NARCh to create it’s first ever Women’s Pro division. It was a five-team division and was one of the best women’s tournaments we’ve seen in a long time. This year, everyone wants a piece of the pie. We have eight teams will compete for $3,000 and the 2023 Women’s NARCh Pro title. This division just got younger, faster, and a much more difficult to win than it already was. Every single roster has one or more players that are either committed, actively playing or graduated from NCAA schools ranging from club level to D1.
One important change Daryn made this year was to match the Women’s Pro block schedule with the Men’s Pro block schedule. The women’s final will be played right before the men’s giving spectators two or more hours of some of the best men’s and women’s roller hockey in the world.
So many women this either changed teams, made the jump from gold to Pro, or are playing NARCh for the first time. I truly think this might be one of the most fun divisions to watch this year. Here is a preview of each team participating.
3PIC Labeda Blood & Feathers
3PIC Labeda Blood & Feathers is a returning team to the Women’s Pro division but their roster looks quite different. They will lean heavily on Tori Pizzuto for a veteran presence. She’s an offensive threat that doesn’t back down from a battle. They will also look to Sam Leavens who is no stranger to NARCh. She’ll compliment Tori with her play making abilities. Sam also brings good vibes on the bench and in the locker room. 3PIC Labeda Blood & Feathers also picked up a young stud in Brooke Wellers. Brooke’s hockey IQ and smooth skating ability will be important for them in the defensive end.
It will be interesting to see if the new pieces 3PIC Labeda Blood & Feathers picked up can help them find the success they haven’t found in the Women’s Pro division yet. They will be tested right off the bat when they play Pama Labeda Golden Knights in just their second game of the tournament.
CTC Hotwheelz will be a new addition to the Women’s Pro division but their roster is no stranger to big tournaments. They have a lot of experience in international play with more than 4 players from Team Canada. Even though Brielle Belevrieve is a “rookie” to NARCh, she is no stranger to putting up big points. On the back end they have a shutdown defenseman and shot blocking specialist in Alex Frisk. Alex’s first time playing NARCh was in St. Paul, Minnesota in 2002. While the skill and speed of the women’s game has elevated significantly since 2002, Alex’s experience and leadership will be invaluable for CTC Hotwheelz.
Expect this team to play your classic Canadian style. They will be fast, high skilled, with a no quit attitude. Bottom line is Canadians know how to win. They have a solid round robin line up. They run into Rinkster Factory Team, who might be the tournament favorite, but every game is a winnable game for them.
Hi Chew Fantasy Mix
Hi Chew Fantasy is another returning team that has quite a different looking roster. Where they lose experience, they gain youth and tenacity. They will once again have the fastest player in the Women’s Pro division in Asher Printzen. They have 4 players with NCAA D1 college and pro ice hockey experience. If those girls can figure out roller hockey quickly, they’ll be in good shape. Hi Chew Fantasy’s biggest strength might end up being their defense and goaltending. The past couple years Ella Park has made it clear she belongs in the Women’s Pro division and can certainly steal some games.
Typically, Hi Chew Fantasy has a very fast, north-south ice hockey style of play. They are physical and don’t pass up opportunities to drive pucks to the net. If they find their identity early on, this is a roster that can find their way into the final.
HOAPA NCI Phoenix
New to Women’s Pro and probably the youngest team in the division is HOAPA NCI Phoenix. Most of this roster has established themselves as a dominant player in the gold division. We’ll see how they can make an impact in Pro where no game is an easy game. It’s fun to see the sisters Emel and Aylin Aichele continue to play together. Lexi Tilleman will be a key player to watch on this squad. She is a smart, skilled, playmaking defenseman that played for ASU’s roller hockey team last season. She definitely carries a “look good, feel good, play good” swagger.
HOAPA NCI Phoenix might have the toughest round robin schedule having to play Pama Labeda Golden Knights and Rinkster Factory Team in their 3rd and 4th game. With the lack of Pro experience, they might have a tough time getting themselves into the final, but I definitely wouldn’t count them out.
Pama Labeda Golden Knights
Pama Labeda Golden Knights squad runs deep. This might be the best roster they’ve had in a long time. With all their staple players in the lineup, the addition of a couple Spaniards will add to their speed and depth. We all know Sarah Bier and Lindsey Grigg will quarterback the defensive end but Vicky Huynh might be Pama’s all around best player this year. Vicky is “in her prime.” Her compete and grit are on another level. Another player to watch is Chloe Sapra. She was a late addition to Pama’s roster last year, but she made an immediate impact despite being the youngest player on their roster.
Pama has a very smart, patient, and mobile defensive unit. When you complement that with natural goal scorers like Brooke Bryant, Lily Humphrey, and Corinna Weimann they have all the necessary pieces to win the whole thing. If they can stick to their game and eliminate mental mistakes, they could be going home with $3,000.
Revel Hockey Club
Revel Hockey Club is a brand-new team but a lot of familiar faces. This is a roster is made up of players who previously played for Rink Rat, High Chew, Pama, and Blood and Feathers. Maybe one of the most notable players on this roster is Casidhe Agudelo who is making her return to women’s hockey after only playing Men’s Platinum the last few years. Casidhe is basically a second goalie. She eats pucks, battles in the corners and clears out the crease better than anyone. Revel hockey Club’s goalie Val Vega will definitely appreciate having Casidhe in front of her. Val is a goalie who has been around a long time. When she is playing well, she can steal a win from any team. At some point Revel Hockey Club is going to need her to do that.
Even though this team is made up of players who have been around for a while, they might struggle to get on the same page if they don’t have a commanding voice on the bench to help them. In this division, if you aren’t on the same page, you can find yourself down fast. If Revel Hockey Club can find chemistry and make good adjustments as they go, they will surprise any team that doesn’t take them seriously.
Revision Vanquish is another team that will have some new faces to their roster. They have 4 key players out with injury and ice hockey commitments but have found some solid replacements. New to Revision Vanquish and NARCh this year is New Zealand’s Jana Kivell. Jana is a crafty forward that will bring the goal scoring piece Revision Vanquish has been missing the last couple years. With the additions of a few pure ice hockey players who will take a couple games to find their footwork, Revision Vanquish will look to players like Sydni Taft to help control the pace of their game. Even with Sydni being a natural forward, she’s a player that can be put in any position or situation.
If Revision Vanquish is going to make it far it will be because of their goaltending. Kat Reyes has turned a few heads the past year and has easily established herself as one of, if not the best goalie in the division. Revision Vanquish will have success if they can keep the games low scoring. If they start exchanging chances with teams, they will get in trouble. As with every team, they’re here for a reason and their coach Nabeel Gerges has all the tools he needs to put together a successful run.
Rinkster Factory Team
Rinkster Factory Team is a heavy favorite to win the whole tournament. It’s almost impossible to highlight one or two players. If any one of their players were on a different team, they would be the best player on that roster. It’s so easy to talk about the goal scoring they have in Laura Veharanta, Tia Stoddard, or Kayla Demint but what makes their team so successful are players people sometimes forget to talk about like Arianne Yokoyama and Daniella Dror. They are impossible to beat one on one, they eat pucks, win battles, and jump into the play every chance they get.
Even with a star-studded roster their biggest asset might be their coach, Shane Arsenault. He is a big reason why they play such a structured game. In big games Shane keeps them levelheaded. Rinkster Factory Team has arguably they easiest round robin. If they don’t find themselves as in 1st or 2nd seed with a bye to the semifinal, they will be disappointed.