U.S., Californians bag double gold at summertime World Roller Games
The United States Men’s and Women’s Senior National Inline Hockey Teams returned to what many in this country considered to be their rightful place – at the top of the world rankings – after winning gold medals at July’s World Roller Games in Barcelona.
Both teams did so with a sizable assist from Californians.
The men’s team showcased six players from the Golden State: Cody Kettler (Huntington Beach), Derrick Burnett (Corona), Jose Cadiz (La Puente), Nathan Sigmund (San Diego), Peter Kavaya (San Clemente) and Travis Noe (Thousand Oaks).
The women’s team featured eight players with California connections: Ariane Yokoyama (Van Nuys), Audra Smit (Dana Point), Casidhe Kunichika (Fullerton), Elisa Pogu (Corona), Jennifer Friedman (San Gabriel), Kendall Curtis (Lakewood), Laura Veharanta (Irvine) and Sarah Bier.
Although Bier is from Missouri, she’s transplanted to California. She not only played on the women’s roller team, but she’s an Anaheim Lady Ducks coach, plays on the women’s ice team and is a full-time lead at The Rinks-Anaheim ICE.
Both teams defeated the Czech Republic in the gold medal game. The U.S. men won 3-0 as Kavaya notched one goal while the U.S. women captured a 3-1 verdict as Friedman scored once and Yokoyama picked up two assists.
The gold medal for the USA women was their third consecutive while the USA men returned to the top of the award stand for the first time since 2014 (in championship tournaments sponsored by the World Skate organization, formerly FIRS).
According to Veharanta, the goal was to leave Barcelona with the gold medal when the team’s roster was first announced in February.
“The team we had in Barcelona was by far one of the strongest we’ve ever had for Team USA,” she said. “Having a roster as deep as ours from forward to defense and down to the goalies gives us, as players, a lot of confidence but also puts a lot of pressure on us to succeed.
“The level of skill and strength has improved immensely since my first world roller championships back in 2009. You saw that this year, especially with a team like Italy knocking Team Canada out in quarterfinals.”
The American women did not disappoint. They outscored their four pool opponents 20-2 before zipping through the playoffs.
Team USA defeated France 3-0 in the quarterfinals and Spain, 5-1, in the semifinals
Veharanta led the team in scoring with eight goals and four assists, followed by Arizonan Allison Era with six goals and five assists and Yokoyama with two goals and five assists.
“I think some key elements to the success of this year’s team was the ability for our group to come together,” Veharanta explained. “We had a mixture of players from different club teams and different areas of the U.S. We had a short time – just two practices in Spain plus a short Memorial Day Weekend training camp – to get familiar playing with each other and coming together as a group. Being in a place like Barcelona made it easy to do that, too. Our schedule allowed for a lot of team bonding around our games early in the tournament and I think that played an important part of that coming together process.”
Back on top
The U.S. men finished 5-1 in their six games in the tournament. The championship game victory avenged a 4-2 loss to the Czechs in pool play.
The Americans displayed their power with a 7-0 quarterfinal win over Switzerland and a 7-3 semifinal win over France.
State Wars Hockey president Tim McManus served as U.S. head coach. He underscored the significance of the gold medal showing by noting the Czechs had won three of the last four and five of the last eight world championships.
Californians on the roster contributed 11 goals and 14 assists to the gold medal-winning effort.
Sigmund finished second in team scoring with three goals and four assists while Noe collected two goals and three assists. Other contributors included Kavaya (three goals, one assist), Cadiz (one goal, three assists), Kettler (one goal, two assists) and Burnett (one goal, one assist).
— Phillip Brents
(Oct. 2, 2019)