By Alex Morrison
This weekend’s east coast regional qualifier took us to Apex, NC a suburb of Raleigh, where we crammed 37 games into one day of competition. This one played like a true regional, as every team in the event hailed from the state of North Carolina. Here’s how the day played out:
We had 3 very excited 8u teams play a round robin this morning. The Dragons and Primetime were the first matchup out of the gate, and they played a great game! The Dragons took a 3-0 lead into the half, and were looking good. Primetime got their engines started after a talk from their coach, and Zak Robinson drove forward, scoring 2 goals. As the clock was ticking down, Nick Helton stuffed home the game tying goal, preserving a point for their team. The Dragons then had to win their next game against the Lamplighters to control their destiny, but the Lamplighters were too much for them, winning 6-2, clinching a spot in the championship game. In the 3rd game, Primetime needed to win, or give up less than 6 goals in a loss to make it to the final. They took it to the Lamplighters, winning their game by the same 6-2 margin. This meant a rematch in the Final. This game was a reversal of the first, as the Lamplighters did exactly what their name says, scoring 5 goals in the first half, and adding 3 more in the second, cruising to a 8-5 win. Alan Bettner and Carson Schrock each tallied 5 points in the victory.
This 4 team division brought the most noise into the building today, thanks to some awesome spectators. All 6 of the round robin games were fun to watch… and then we got to the finals. The Silver Final was a barnburner. The Dreamsports Dragons Gold and Dragons Blue had a rematch of their tie game earlier in the day. This one was just as close. Blake Gross of Dragons Blue and Noah West of Dragons Gold each had a goal and an assist on their team’s first 2 goals of the game. The Blue team scored 2 more before the end of the half to take a 4-2 lead on Gold. The second half showed off some great goaltending, as both netminders made some great saves in the first portion of the period. The Gold team finally solved Jacob Brott, scoring a pair of goals to tie the game with about 4 minutes to go. Alan Bettner, yes, the Atom Division player, scored the game winner with just 3 minutes to go in the game, as the Dragons Blue won this one, 6-4.
The Gold Final was very surprising, as the Raleigh Speed jumped out to a 5-0 lead on the Alkali Dragons in the first half. The Dragons came out a different team in the second half, scoring right away in the period. They pressured the Speed goalie, Ben Calhoun, who made save after save. The Dragons attack was relentless, as they poured shot after shot on goal. They managed to squeak 2 more pucks by the goalie, making for one heck of a finish. The Speed took a penalty with 2 minutes to go in the game, giving the Dragons the power play they desperately needed. During the penalty, Speed’s Devin Phillips scored a short-handed goal, giving him the hat trick, and more importantly, sealing the victory for his team. The Speed won this one, 6-3.
The largest division of the day, this 5 team group had 2 teams the stood out from the rest, Alkali Dragons and Dragons Blue, one team right in the middle, Team Combat, and two teams trying to make their mark on the division with a win, Team Carolina 2000 and Raleigh Speed. The Silver Final saw Combat face one of those teams, Speed. The puck was possessed by Combat for most of the 1st half, as they built a 3-0 lead on Speed, thanks to goals by Parker Jones and Blake Flanders. In the second half, Combat poured on 4 more, as they ended up winning the game 7-0.
The Gold Final was a rematch of the Dragons. Alkali pulled off a 1 goal victory in the round robin to earn the top seed in the bracket, but it was this game that would determine who took home the gold. This was a defensive struggle, as each team took their time bringing the puck up the floor, and a lot of the shots that were taken were forced from bad angles. Finally, with a minute left in the first half, Dragons Blue’s Matt Miller tallied his team’s first. Alkali waited over 6 minutes into the second half before Jared Medwar answered, on a pass from AJ King. Each team scored once more before the end of the half, sending the game to overtime. The extra frame was pretty lackluster, as just a handful of shots were taken on goal. We went to a shootout, where Alex Robinson of Dragons Blue scored, and Victor Paluzzi made some great saves to win the game for his team.
Pee Wee Division
On any day, any one of the teams in this division could beat any of the other teams. This group was that balanced. Today was no exception. The Honeybadgers were the team to go unscathed in the initial round, earning a bye into the final. That meant Raleigh Speed and Alkali Dragons 98 had to face each other in a playoff game to determine who would take the other spot in the championship game. The first time they played, the teams tied 4-4, thanks to 2 goal performances by Todd Martin of the Dragons and Danny Brescia of Speed. In the playoff game, Lewis Evans completely dominated, scoring 4 goals, advancing his Dragons 98 team. The final was the closest game of the day, as even overtime was not enough to determine a winner. Lewis Evans scored 3 goals in the game, and had the chance to seal the deal in the shootout, but wasn’t able to put It away. In the 6th round of the shootout, the Honeybadgers’ Zack Tisdale scored to win it. Both teams should be proud of their accomplishments in this game!
The oldest of our groups, this division featured NARCh veterans Alkali NC, playing for their seed to this year’s NARCh Finals in San Jose. They looked strong during their first 3 games, as they easily handled their opponents by at least 3 goals in each game. Their opponents, Blackout, came out flying to start, scoring first, then adding on 3 more, thanks to a major power play. The 4 goal lead looked pretty insurmountable for Alkali, but no one told Wyatt Sexton, as he put the team on his back scoring 2 and assisting 2 on 4 goals to tie it, then scoring the game winner with 5 seconds to go. Alkali NC wins 5-4.
In the Silver Final, Team No Show didn’t follow what their name suggests, as Trent Allen scored a hat trick en route to their 6-3 win over Top Shelf. Nathan Hinson scored 2 goals in a losing effort.
That’s a wrap for us here in North Carolina. Next weekend is our final weekend of Regional Qualifiers before the NARCh Finals! We will be updating things from Mississauga, Ontario and Victoria, British Columbia. Until then, I bid you adieu.