June 11, 2010
NARCh regionals draw to close,
set stage for 2010 Finals
With the last of four California regionals in the books, and with just one more chance at qualifying remaining for teams around the country, the field appears all but set for the grand-daddy of all inline hockey tournaments this summer: the NARCh Finals July 15 to Aug. 1 in San Jose.
“It’s hard to believe that we’re in our 17th year of NARCh,” NARCh president Daryn Goodwin said. “Each year we try to improve to bring (players, coaches and fans) the best experience that the sport has to offer. We are very excited to be heading back to the Silver Creek Sportsplex in San Jose for the NARCh Finals.”
This marks the fourth time overall this year that the massive NARCh caravan will descend on what is inarguably regarded as the finest inline hockey facility in the United States, likely in all of North America, for that matter.
The NARCh West Coast Winternationals took center stage in January at the Silver Creek Sportsplex, followed by two regional qualifiers – one in late March and one in early May – to jump-start teams’ quest for the NARCh Finals.
Goodwin said the participation numbers for this year’s Finals should be large once again with all four California regionals boasting sell-outs. A record 436 teams participated in 2008 when the season-ending mega tournament was held in San Jose. Despite the downturn in the economy, Goodwin sees a very robust presence from around the country, particularly from the Golden State, for the 2010 Finals later this summer.
“Overall, it’s been a great year for the regional qualifiers,” Goodwin said. “Participation is up at every regional west of the Rocky Mountains, which is sort of expected. Wherever the NARCh Finals are at, you’ll get more teams from within that region. Last year, since we were in Toronto, we had more teams from Ontario and Michigan and, while some of those dedicated teams will make the trip to San Jose, many won’t.
"Foreign teams have also been an important part of the NARCh Finals and we expect more than ever this year. Since California has a bigger base of teams than any other state, we expect a large turnout for the Finals this year. I’m not sure if it will break the all-time record but I would be surprised if it’s not at least 400.”
Teams qualify for the NARCh Finals through a series of regional tournaments held throughout the United States and Canada. The qualifying season runs from March to June. Two regionals each were held in Northern California and Southern California to accommodate interest throughout the western region. Besides the four regionals in California, other regionals took place in New York, Michigan, Pennyslvania, Missouri, Florida, Colorado, Canada (Albert and Ontario) and Hawaii.
Seeds are awarded in Platinum, Gold, Silver and Club tiers based on team finish.
Teams have one final opportunity to qualify for July’s NARCh Finals by competing in a regional event scheduled June 25-27 at the Las Vegas Roller Hockey Center.
San Diego regional
For the second consecutive year, the Escondido Sports Center hosted a SoCal regional. Competition wrapped up June 4-6 at the two-rink facility in northern San Diego County.
None happier for a repeat of the NARCh experience was Patrick Martinez, who serves as a recreation supervisor (hockey and soccer director) for the facility, which is operated by the City of Escondido. Threatened budget cuts have spared the facility and inline hockey continues to flourish in San Diego North County.
“The significance of hosting NARCh was to help with the growth of roller hockey in San Diego County,” Martinez said. “The high school age group has taken a loss over the past few years to competing sports and ice hockey. However, we are seeing our numbers increase at the younger ages and this will be our future of hockey in the years to come.”
The high profile presence of NARCh works hand-in-hand with the sport center’s own recruitment programs, according to Martinez.
“We are currently in the middle of a grass-roots program to improve the sport of hockey – roller and ice – in San Diego County,” Martinez said. “The emphasis of the program is to provide quality hockey in San Diego and to compete at the highest levels for each age group in a fun and competitive atmosphere. Another point of the program is to have players “play and stay” in the San Diego area.
"There are a handful of talented ice hockey players who used to play roller hockey in San Diego but chose to travel to other rinks outside of San Diego for their ice commitments. With all this travel to which these players are committed, this lessens their time from home to play roller hockey for their school team or club team … unlike many of the players from Orange County and L.A. County who stay local for their ice and roller commitments.”
This year’s San Diego regional was the largest ever, with 48 teams entered and games running from 7 p.m. on Friday until 10 p.m. on Sunday. Competition took place in eight divisions: Cub (6-under), Atom (8-under), Mite (10-under), Squirt (12-under), Pee Wee (14-under), Bantam (16-under), Midget (18-under) and Junior/Men’s (18-older).
Goodwin has continued the NARCh tradition of exposing the sport to a greater audience, often holding regionals in new geographic areas to promote the sport. That was one of the reasons the Escondido Sports Center received a regional last May. Another reason for the trek down from the Los Angeles/Inland Empire area is that the Escondido Sports Center is also Goodwin’s home rink. He plays in the Tuesday Night Men’s Open League when he has time.
“I really am excited about the sport right now,” the NARCh boss said. “That fact that we had eight Atom teams and 12 Junior/Men’s teams (at the San Diego regional) is a very positive sign. New kids are getting into the sport and the older guys are still playing.”
The Escondido facility is similar to the 949 Roller Hockey Center in Irvine in that it is roofed with open sides but not quite as large. “(It’s) a setup that really only works well in Southern California due to the nice climate,” Goodwin said.
Martinez said NARCh events at the Escondido Sports Center have a lot to offer for families traveling to the San Diego region. Along those lines, the Las Vegas Tour Rebels brought teams to compete in the seven older age divisions – a five-hour trip each way.
“The Escondido Sports Center is located in a 300-plus acre regional park that offers walking trails, disc golf, duck ponds, softball fields, baseball fields, a football field, soccer fields, tennis courts, picnic areas, a skate/bike park and the largest girls indoor field hockey program west of the Mississippi,” Martinez said. “Our location takes an average 25-minute drive to get to the many great destinations San Diego has to offer.”
Overall, San Diego-area teams fared well against competition from Orange County, Nevada and Arizona.
The Escondido Sports Center is home to three travel teams: the San Diego Rockets, San Diego Stingrays and San Diego Selects.
The Rockets finished first in the Atom Division, second in the Cub and Squirt divisions and third in the Mite Division while the SD Selects won the Bantam Division
Top finishes for the Stingrays included second place in the Bantam Division, third place in the Pee Wee Division and fourth place in the Squirt and Midget divisions and sixth place in the Junior/Men’s Division.
The Bantam championship game was an all-San Diego match-up, with the top-seeded San Diego Selects recording an 8-0 victory over the second-seeded San Diego Stingrays Black team behind a three-point showing from Spencer Gaalaas.
Other division champions included the 949 Anarchy (Cub), Team OC/Barron Hockey (Mite), Tour Raw Steel Selects (Squirt), Tour Raw Steel 96 OG (Pee Wee), Velocity (Midget) and Las Vegas Tour Rebels Red (Junior/Men’s).
The San Diego regional served several late-forming Platinum teams that needed to qualify in order to have a chance to defend their titles. Goodwin termed the combined Junior/Men’s Division “awesome” with “a lot of great talent throughout.”
Five Platinum seeds were handed out in the Junior/Men’s Division. Joining the Rebels with elite seeds were the Mission Raiders, AKS, Pama Prospects and Las Vegas Tour Rebels Mens. Junior Gold seeds went to the Stingrays, Reebok Eschelon HB and San Diego Rockets while Men’s Gold seeds went to OSIMA, the SD Blazers and Vikings.
Two Platinum seeds each were awarded in the Atom Division (San Diego Rockets Black and Eschelon Ducks) and Midget Division (Velocity and Las Vegas Tour Rebels Red). The OC Blades 93 also earned a Bantam Platinum seed while competing up in the Midget Division.
Gold seeds went to the HB Reebok Junior Ducks and AKS in the Atom Division, Team OC/Barron Hockey in the Mite Division, Las Vegas Tour Rebels in the Pee Wee Division and Stingrays, Las Vegas Tour Rebels White, Reebok Eschelon HB, Mission Raiders Black and San Diego Selects 91 in the Midget Division.
Platinum/Gold seeds went to the Tour Raw Steel 96 OG (Pee Wee) and San Diego Selects (Bantam).
The tournament format ensured the usual number of close games in the playoffs and finals.
The Atom Platinum championship game proved to be a back-and-forth affair between the top-seeded Eschelon Ducks and the second-seeded Rockets Black squad, with the teams trading goals for a 4-4 standoff until the Rockets’ Nick Copppola finally put in the game-winner.
In the Atom Gold title game, Tanner Gates scored nine goals for the Rockets Red team but it was Grayson Yada’s OT goal that gave AKS a thrilling 11-10 victory.
Team OC/Barron Hockey proved to be the dominant team in the Mite Division, recording a 21-2 goal-differential in round-robin play and winning the championship game against the Las Vegas Tour Rebels via the 8-0 mercy rule.
Goodwin called the Squirt Division the most balanced in the regional, with four teams competing and, according to the NARCh president, “all capable of winning the tournament.” Tour Raw Steel bettered the Rockets by a goal in each half to win 6-4 as Cole Kennedy and Cannon Kunichika each collected three points.
The most dramatic goal of the tournament was scored by Kan Yamamoto of the Tour Raw Steel OG 96 team as his goal, assisted by Jonathon Pichedwatana, won the Pee Wee final, 4-3, with just 19 second remaining in regulation play.
The Midget Division featured teams just re-forming following the conclusion of the ice hockey season. The Midget Platinum championship game pitted the Velocity (defending NARCh champions) against the Las Vegas Tour Rebels Red. Beau Bennett and Darren Nowick each scored twice to lead Velocity to a 6-2 win. Cody Williams scored both Rebel goals.
Goodwin termed both teams already in “championship form.”
“There wasn’t an average player on the floor as both of these teams are loaded with players that have dominated the roller scene for a while, as well as the ice,” he said.
The Midget Gold final pitted the Rebels White team against RBK Eschelon HB, with Rebel netminder Adam Nichols stopping 24 of 26 shots to lead his team to a 6-2 win.
Play in the combined Junior/Men’s Division topped that in the Midget Division, according to Goodwin. Two major upsets occurred in the Platinum semifinals, with the Mission Raiders defeating the Pama Prospects, 4-3, and the Las Vegas Tour Rebels Red nipping AKS, 4-3, in overtime. The Rebels then shut out the Raiders, 2-0, on goals by Kris Carter and Adam Zucker.
The Tour Rebels Men’s squad topped the Stingrays, 7-3, to win the Junior/Men’s Gold finale as Micah Sanford scored four times.
Goodwin said the San Diego regional met all his expectations of a fun and productive event. “There was great competition, grateful people and a lot of teams excited about San Jose,” he said.
In other words, bring it on!
Regional qualifying began March 27-28 in San Jose, then shifted south to Irvine April 23-25 for the largest-ever NARCh regional as more than 100 teams converged on the 949 facility. The scene then shifted back to the Silver Creek Sportsplex for the second Northern California regional May 8-9.
For a comprehensive list of qualified teams from those regional events, visit the NARCh Web site at narch.com.
The first-ever NARCh regional in Kapolei, Hawaii took place May 15-16. While most of the teams were local, the Pama Hockey Club from California did capture the Men’s Gold Division. Itan Chavira led the Pama squad with 14 points (eight goals, six assists) to earn high scorer honors.
Gold, Silver and Club seeds were awarded at the Hawaii event.
NARCh Finals block schedule
Mite Silver: July 16-19
Pee Wee Silver: July 16-19
Midget Silver: July 16-19
Cub: July 17-18
Mite Gold: July 17-20
Pee Wee Gold: July 19-23
Midget Gold: July 21-25
Men’s Gold: July 23-26
Mite Platinum: July 25-27
Mite Club: July 25-31
Division I: July 26-28
Midget Platinum: July 26-29
Pee Wee Platinum: July 28-30
NARCh Pro: July 29-31
Women’s Gold/Platinum: July 30-Aug. 1
35+: July 30-Aug. 1
Pee Wee Club: July 30-Aug. 1