By Jeremy Ellis
Day number 2 of the 2014 NARCh Pro division has come to an end and that means that this whirlwind of 3 day action has entered playoff mode. Seventeen teams entered into the fray yesterday knowing that only 9 would play more than the scheduled 4 games. Some teams were just trying to make it in while others were more concerned with what seed they would end up with.
With 9 playoff teams, having the number 1 seed has distinct advantages. They go against a team that has played an extra game and is also the lowest seeded team that remains. This year, only three teams garnered 8 points going 4-0 in round robin. They were the Labeda Snipers, Next Gen, and Alkali RPD. By way of goals against tie breakers, they were seeded out 1-2-3 respectively.
Remember, the two teams that end up in the final will not only be playing for the title, but also for the world during the final which will be taped and aired on NBC Universal sports.
Before we take a look at the matchups, let’s recap the 2014 NARCh pro skills. Our fastest skater this year is no surprise in that it was Tyler Spezia taking home the belt. The Bordercats Pro is in a league of his own when it comes to speed and most all challengers shied away from this portion of the event. Our top sniper competition did not disappoint and in the end it was the man who pulled off the prettiest moves all night taking the crown. Kevin Tiefenwerth of Mission Black Ice was our champion and chief crowd pleaser. Besting the completion and stopping the most plastic was Tour Roadrunner netminder Keith Johnson. Keep an eye on this guy in years to come as the Roadrunners continue to build the talent pipeline to their pro squad.
#1 Labeda Snipers vs. #9 Mission Black Ice
Two New York minds behind the bench get together in this one with Tim McManus and his Sniper Squad embarking on their title defense against the jay Muro led Snipers. The Black Ice youth teams have been proving grounds for future Sniper players, but now they are seeking their own identity in the division. Youngsters like Pascale, Rafferty, Kraft, and Gerger look to shock the world against a veteran lade yet talented Snipers team. Snipers are led into the playoffs by the goaltender Troy Redman and team captain Greg Thompson, The quest for the repeat start Saturday at 10am.
#2 Next Gen vs. #7 AZ Outcasts
The reward for getting the 7th seed is not having to play on Friday night in the #8 vs #9 matchup. However, it is small consolation when your quarterfinal team is against a Next Gen squad that looked like a juggernaut in Round Robin. Next Gen laid waste to their 4 opponents while netting division high 29 goals. Next Gen can run and gun with the best of them and their plan is to simply score and score again. The AZ Outcasts feature a blended roster of former Tour Rebels who know what it takes to win in these playoffs. Expect the Outcasts to b no pushover for the high scoring Next Gen team.
#3 Alkali RPD vs. #6 Tour Excitement
RPD also finished 4-0 in round robin play but there were some frustrating games for last year’s runners-up. The ISCA Grizzlies used defensive tactics that kept the RPD team somewhat at bay today. It took a strong second half to finally pull out the 2 points. The last round robin game for RPD was against this same Excitement squad. The excitement can build off of that 5-3 loss and take away that they scored more goals than any other team against RPD. Coach George Brown’s excitement team had a strong showing and can be very proud of how the pro division has gone so far. An Excitement win would be a stunning upset against an RPD squad that boasts both veteran leadership and young speed and firepower.
#4 Seed Puma Cyclones vs. #5 Seed Vanquish.
PAMA has to be considered a dark-horse in the playoff field. They finished the 4 game round robin with 7 out of a possible 8 points. The only blemish was a 1-1 tie against Tour LTD. The unexpected tie seemed to fuel the Cyclones fire as they won the next 3. A hot goaltender and timely scoring has been the catalyst. The Vanquish are right where they want to be at this point. After a lackluster effort losing to this Cyclone team, the Vanquish have payback on their mind. The 2012 champions know what it takes to weather the storm and hoist the cup. PAMA has done a good job of reloading to add young talent to the remaining veterans.
These quarterfinal games get started at 10 AM on Saturday and will be viewable on the livestream though NARCh.com. The 2014 title is up for grabs! Good luck to our remaining teams.