By Jeremy Ellis
Today was a day to crown champions and to delight the crowd. Squirt platinum and Bantam platinum drew to a close with teams that fought through adversity all tournament taking home the gold. Coach Joe Cook led his Alkali squad back from a shaky start to pool play to division glory. In Squirts, it was a rematch when Wheels of Anarchy locked horns with the Revision Vanquish.
NARCh finals is a grind, ask anyone who has had the chance to raise a cup. Multiple game days, all hours, and against the best teams in the world can take its toll. Sometimes the journey has obstacles that affect one player and in turn a team. Take the Wheels of Anarchy for example. On Wednesday they faced there would be opponent in the final, the Vanquish. A 5-1 Anarchy victory would prove costly, as they would lose Daniel Berno to a broken ankle. The team rallied around the setback from there. After tying the last round robin game to finish with 3 wins and that one tie, the Wheels had the division’s top seed. After a semi-final victory over Eagle Ridge, the rematch with the Vanquish was set.
Unfortunately for the Wheels of Anarchy the magic would run out. Head coach Nabeel Gerges had adjusted his game plan for this one and the results proved successful. When the horn sounded it was the Vanquish raising the cup after posting a 4-1 victory to be crowned Squirt Platinum champions.
Scotty Savage, a California native, has played NARCh since he was a mite. We often discuss some of the games and more talented players in the staff room while we work on items for the event. Daryn mentioned to me that Scotty had yet to hoist the NARCh Final hardware. A US National Development Team Product, Scotty has had a busy week, playing in 4 divisions. In Bantam, Scotty laced up for Team Alkali and added a physical presence on the defensive end and a knack for timely goals on offense.
Under the careful eye of Coach Cook, team Alkali was able to bounce back from a 5-2 loss in the first game of their round robin set. Finishing as the 6th seed, they had a longer road to get to the final game. The first playoff match-up pitted them against the Missassauga Rattlers, who beat them previously in pool play. Alkali came out with vigor and renewed effort while avenging the loss and handing the Rattlers a shutout 5-0. Then they had a date with the number one seeded Mission Black Ice. A close game throughout, Alkali held a one goal lead and managed to add two more late tallies to close the deal.
In the Final, they once again were able to lean on Savage both offensively and defensively. The defense held true against Coast 2 Coast and for the second time during the playoffs Alkali pitched a shutout. It was a sweet ending to a long day for Cook and the Boys. The 4-0 victory earned them gold medals and the chance to hoist the Narch Cup.
Changing gears, Pro is in full swing and so far the Labeda Snipers and Reebok Larceny have won both tilts on their schedule. The Snipers have the target on their backs after closing the deal last year in Florida. They have answered the bell so far while scoring 15 times in those two games. Led by Goaltender JP Susco and company, the snipers have only allowed 6 goals in the first two games. Goals against is one of the tiebreakers so each one carries weight. So far during finals, teams have missed out on playoff opportunities by the slimmest of margins due to goals allowed. PRO has a full docket tomorrow and the day culminates with two divisional playoff games.
Tonight was a fun one with the PRO Skills Competition packing the rink. This has become a must-see event since its inception in 2009. In the Fastest Skater, 2 time defending champ Nielsson Arcibal made it a 3-peat. He has created a dynasty in this event and it almost seems as if no one wants to challenge the champ. Top Goalie and sniper has been a different story, with no repeat winners to speak of. Travis Noe of the Larceny outlasted the competition and came through in the clutch with a top shelf snipe after a spin-o-rama to earn the honor of being called Top Sniper. His goal secured the title for goaltender Zach Lane of Alkali who managed to win despite his weakness for low blocker shots….Those three are now the proud owners of official NARCh Title Belts.
Tomorrow, the over 35 and 45 players dust off the equipment and wheels for a spin around the rink. Aspirin and ace bandages will be available on each bench!
The last Friday of Finals always brings excitement and also a sigh of relief from the staff. We all know it’s the home stretch and only the weekend remains. The light at the end of the tunnel is visible and just like the players, we are stepping up our games to bring the World’s Best Roller Hockey to all of you each and every day. Thanks again for being part of all the action that we call the NARCh Finals!