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Quakes, Outcasts heading to AIHL finals in Las Vegas

 

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The Silicon Valley Quakes and Arizona Outcasts will represent the West Coast Elite Division in this year’s American Inline Hockey League (AIHL) Champions Cup playoffs May 17-19 at the Las Vegas Roller Hockey Center.

It’s the culmination of the 2018-19 season that began for the division’s Northern California-based teams in early December.

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“This year, it’s been great,” Quakes coach Dave Inouye said. “All the guys are good. There has been no issues with fighting. Everyone respects each other. It was a good year.”

The AIHL schedule was more compact this season, with five teams competing in the West Coast Elite Division.

The Quakes finished 14-3-1 in 18 regular-season games to earn the No. 2 seed for the regional playoffs that took place March 30-31 in San Jose. The Arizona Outcasts earned the No. 1 seed with a 10-2 record, finishing 2-1 against the Quakes, with one game decided in overtime.

Teams were seeded for the regional playoffs based on winning percentage because not all teams played the same number of games. The Revolution Elite finished third in the division with an 8-7-1 record, followed by the High Life Elite (5-13) and Nor Cal Jawz Elite (4-14).

The High Life eliminated the Jawz 2-1 in a best-of-three series to meet the Outcasts, who swept the High Life in the teams’ ensuing semifinal series.

The Quakes eliminated the Revolution by scores of 3-0 and 8-3.

The two semifinal winners advanced to the national championship tournament where they will be joined by the Empire State Legends and Philadelphia Liberty from the East Coast Elite Division.

The four teams will play a round-robin on the opening day to set the seeding for best-of-three semifinals, with the winners advancing to a best-of-three championship series.

“The games against the Outcasts were good,” Inouye said. “When we have our full team — a lot of our guys work — they were great games. It will be great competition when we play them in Vegas.”

Inoyue said he’s coached everyone on the Quakes’ AIHL roster at some point in their careers. The cohesive nature of the team has created a lot of chemistry between the players and has to account for a great deal of the team’s success.

“We were totally stacked in Nor Cal this year, it brought out a lot of competition,” Inouye said. “We respected each other; the guys played hard.

“My goals are to play hard and respect our opponents but not cross the line. That was my goal for the whole league. It was a great year, a lot of great guys, a lot of hard-fought games.”

 

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The Quakes were loaded in the offensive department. Will Robinson paced the team with 29 points in 20 games, followed by Spenser Marquiss and Sam Poyer with 27 points, Brian Costello with 21 points and Kelly Spain, Brian Ganz and Daniel Ionuye each with 19 points.

Charlie Robinson posted a 16-3-1 record with a 2.23 goals-against average, four shutouts and a .887 save percentage in 20 games.

“All of these guys are on teams that play in the pro division when they go to State Wars,” the Quakes bench boss said.

“These guys are skilled players. They all know how to move the puck. It’s fun watching them play. Everyone is good. It doesn’t really matter who scores. It’s hard to defend when everyone is moving the puck, freeing people up with passes, cycling, they all do that very well.”

Due to the nature of work schedules, only about seven Quakes players will be able to participate at the AIHL finals.

“Not everyone is going to Vegas, so we hope it works out,” the elder Inouye explained. “But when you’re in Vegas you’re guaranteed to have fun because there is so much to do there.”

Maybe even winning a national championship.

Name of the game

The Outcasts essentially return the same team that finished runner-up to the Philadelphia Liberty at the 2018 AIHL Champions Cup Finals with the addition of former Northern Arizona University scoring wizard Trevor Riffey.

Riffey, an Alta Loma native, helped lead the Lumberjacks to a Final Four finish in last year’s National Collegiate Roller Hockey Association (NCRHA) national championship tournament in North Dakota by collecting 57 goals and 80 points in 25 games.

During his two-year career at NAU, Riffey racked up 115 goals and 155 points in 49 games.

Forwards Paul Linder, Kevin Mooney, Alex MacDonald, Shin Yamamoto and Parker Elliot join Riffey in the upcoming AIHL Finals along with defensemen Kyle Mooney, Taylor Abramson, Alex Dodt and Tommy Tuohy and goaltender Clay Taylor.

Elliott leads the Outcasts in season scoring with 26 goals and 36 points, followed by Kyle Mooney with 11 goals and 28 points, Yamamoto with seven goals and 19 points and Riffey with 11 goals and 17 points.

Dodt and Abramson follow on the score sheet with 17 points each while Linder and Tuohy have 15 and 11 points, respectively. Kevin Mooney has eight points in two playoff games.

The Outcasts have scored 75 goals in 14 games – an average of 5.4 goals per game.

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“Great squad, feels like the team gets a little better each season and we are stoked for finals in Vegas,” noted Kyle Mooney, a Laguna Hills native and former star player at UC Santa Barbara.

“It’s always fun playing with my brother (Kevin Mooney, who led the Western Collegiate Roller Hockey League’s Division I teams in scoring in 2018-19 with 32 goals and 69 points in 27 games), which has become less frequent since I graduated college. So it’s been nice to get back on the rink with him at tournaments like these and even when a few months go by we get back on the rink together and it’s like no time has passed.

“It’s a similar feeling with most guys on our AIHL team; we all play on various pro teams across different leagues/tournaments, which attributes to a lot of our success.”

Taylor, who earned a berth on last year’s Team USA senior men’s squad that competed at the International Federation of Roller Sports (FIRS) inline hockey world championships in Italy, has been the team’s iron man between the pipes with a 12-2 record, 2.96 goals-against average and .833 save percentage.

MacDonald, who tallied 25 points in 19 games for Arizona State University’s Division I team that scored a Final Four finish at April’s National Collegiate Roller Hockey Championships in Rochester, N.Y., brings additional firepower to an already potent line-up.

“The season was interesting as we traveled to Northern California three times and played in new locations like Sonora and Monterrey,” Taylor said. “The team had fun and looks forward to the Finals.”

Elite leaders

West Valley College alumni Joe Kubani (18 goals, 36 points) and Matthew Swanson (22 goals, 30 points) led the High Life in season scoring.

UC Berkeley alumnus Ryan Daubenmire topped the Jawz Elite with 31 points while West Valley College alum Christian Acosta led the Revo Elite with 13 points.

Minor playoffs

The West Coast Division will contribute four teams to the Minor tier playoffs in Las Vegas.

The Tier 1 playoffs will spotlight the Mavin Mafia and Mavin Rogue while the Tier 2 playoffs will feature the Marina Mantas and Mavin Mayhem engaged in battle against two representatives from the East Coast Minor Tier 1 and Tier 2 divisions.

Ten teams competed in one division during regular-season play and were separated into two tiers for playoff purposes. The top five finishers in the regular season standings qualified for the Tier 1 playoffs while the bottom five teams comprised the Tier 2 playoff field.

The Mafia finished 16-2 during regular season play to earn the No. 1 seed for the West Coast regional Tier 1 playoffs, followed by the Rouge and NorCal Jawz Gold, both with 15-3 records, NorCal Jawz Blue (8-7-1) and Rocket Sun Energy (7-9-2).

The playoffs consisted of two rounds. The fourth- and fifth-seeded teams met in a preliminary round, followed by a pair of semifinals.

All playoff series were best-of-three formats.

The playoffs faced off with the fifth-seeded Rocket Sun Energy recording an upset over the fourth-seeded Jawz Blue by sweeping the series by scores of 4-2 and 4-1.

Nick Wydock stopped 22of 25 shots (.880 save percentage) to backstop the Rocket Sun defense while Jacob Hernandez (four goals, one assist) and Keifer Lupasco (three goals, one assist) powered the offense.

The Rocket Sun Energy advanced to meet the top-seeded Mafia in the semifinals while the Rogue and Jawz Gold met in the other semifinal to determine which two teams advanced to the finals in Las Vegas.

The Mafia eliminated the Rocket Sun Energy by scores of 9-2 and 9-3 as Mike Tasch racked up four goals and three assists in the two games.

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Rogue eliminated the Jawz Gold by scores of 4-3 and 7-1 to secure a berth in the national championship tournament. Lafe Blaunc led the Rouge with five points in the two playoff wins while goaltender Mike Irving stopped 37 of 41 shots (.902 save percentage).

The Tier 2 playoffs showcased the Silicon Valley Quakes (8-10), Marina Mantas (7-11), Revolution (6-12), Mavin Mayhem (5-13) and Sonora Spiders (3-15).

The Mayhem won both their playoff series to punch their ticket to Las Vegas.

The fourth-seeded Mayhem eliminated the fifth-seeded Spiders by scores of 11-2 and 5-2 in the teams’ preliminary-round series.

Billy Metcalf racked up eight points (four goals, four assists) in the opener while teammate Jono Pecoraro tacked on five points (three goals, two assists). Metcalf paced the Mayhem offense in the second game with three goals while Pecoraro collected two assists.

The Mayhem advanced to meet the top-seeded Quakes in the semifinals, winning in upset fashion by scores of 6-2 and 7-6 in overtime.

Metcalf scored four goals in the first game while Pecoraro scored twice. The Quakes erased a two-goal deficit on late goals by Sebastian Paquette and Aron Quolas to force overtime in the second game.

But Pecoraro scored the winner at 3:21 of overtime, assisted by Metcalf and Evan Medeiros, to keep the Mayhem’s quest for a national championship intact.

Mayhem goaltender Jarrod Sodders picked up all four playoff wins.

The second-seeded Mantas eliminated the third-seeded Revolution by scores of 9-3 and 6-4.

Shane Young (two goals, four assists) and Joey Henry (one goal, five assists) tallied six points for the Mantas in the first game while Henry picked up three goals and one assist in the second game.

Leaderboard

Wes Langeloh tops the Mafia in overall season scoring with 59 points on 36 goals and 23 assists, followed by teammate Martin Flores with 49 points (13 goals, 36 assists). Tasch ranks third in team scoring with 42 points (17 goals, 25 assists).

Blaunc paces Rogue with 58 points (30 goals, 28 assists) while David Baldwin ranks second with 50 points (20 goals, 30 assists).

Marcus Vertun is 9-0 with a 1.78 goals-against average and .901 save percentage for the Mafia while Irving is 17-3 with a 2.35 GAA and .873 save percentage for Rogue.

Metcalf leads the Mayhem in scoring with 41 points (24 goals, 17 assists) while Pecoraro is second on the team with 37 points (26 goals, 11 assists).

Young (12 goals, 16 assists) and Henry (10 goals, 17 assists) lead the Mantas in overall scoring heading into the AIHL finals weekend.

Photos/Ed Salazar

— Phillip Brents

(May 10, 2019)