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WCRHL teams bidding for NCRHA national championships this week in Fargo

 

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The 2018 National Collegiate Roller Hockey Association (NCRHA) national championship tournament is taking place April 11-15 at the Southwest Youth Ice Arena in Fargo, N.D.

The Western Collegiate Roller Hockey League (WCRHL) has 12 teams competing — eight from California and four from Arizona.

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Entrants in the Division I tournament include the 2018 WCRHL regional champion Arizona State University Sun Devils along with the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos, last year’s WCRHL regional champion.

Entrants in the Division II tournament include the reigning WCRHL regional champion Northern Arizona University Lumberjacks, the University of Arizona Wildcats (last year’s regional champion and this year’s runner-up), plus the San Jose State Spartans and Cal Poly Pomona Broncos.

Entrants in the Division III tournament include newly crowned WCRHL regional champion Arizona State, plus the 2018 regional runner-up Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Mustangs. West Valley College and Cal Poly Pomona also are participating.

2018-NCRHA-logoWest Valley College and Saddleback College represent the WCRHL in the Junior College Division.

Brennan Edwards wears two hats – both as WCRHL director and NCRHA executive director. Thus, he has a keen eye on the competition not only at the regional level but at the nationwide level as well. He sees the WCRHL teams being quite competitive at this year’s national championship tournament.

Will they bring any hardware home with them? That’s something results on the court will dictate.

“The WCRHL teams will have their hands full, especially in Division I and Division III where the favorites remain the same from year to year: Farmingdale State, Lindenwood University, Michigan State, Bethel University, among others,” Edwards explained. “Arizona State looks to be the WCRHL’s strongest team, as they finished as the WCRHL Division I champion this year, but look to have the most depth overall.

“In Division II, the long-benched NAU does look like a top five team, with the University of Arizona right behind them. Cal Poly Pomona may be a sleeper though, as they have won some big games against all odds this year and are prepared to do the same at nationals.

“In Division III, both Arizona State and Cal Poly have the talent to win games against the top four, but competing against 2-3 solid lines of Lindenwood, Farmingdale and Michigan State is often a tough challenge. All in all, I know they are all up to the challenge.”

This year’s Junior College Division takes a welcome hike in numbers to five teams. West Valley returns to defend its national championship title.

“Saddleback and West Valley look like the top two teams on paper,” Edwards offered. “But they have never faced any of the other three teams, other than West Valley against St. Louis Community College last year. These five teams will all play each other in round robin, then the top four teams will advance to the semifinals.”

The four divisions are staggered throughout the week. The Division I and Division II tournaments face off April 11 and cap five days of competition with the championship game on April 15. The Division III and Junior College Division tournaments run April 13-15.

Division I

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ASU’s Division I team takes an overall 23-3-0-1 record (including non-divisional games) and a 16-game winning streak into this year’s national championship tournament.

The Sun Devils are led in scoring by Ryan Cotton with 28 goals and 50 points, followed by Wes Fry (pictured above) with 21 goals and 39 points.

The team is loaded with players who can put the puck in the net. Aaron Bland ranks third on the team with 21 goals and 35 points, followed by Aryeh Richer with 13 goals and 32 points, Jake Romo with 19 goals and 28 points. Cy Jewell and Jayme Haveman rank in a tie for sixth in team scoring with 21 points, followed by Ian Bast with 19 points, Kyle Friedman with 13 points and Trevor Weinstock with 11 points.

Fry and Haveman lead ASU with four game-winning goals while Bast has notched three game-winners.

Goaltender Aaron Gittings appears on top of his game with a 21-4 record in 25 games with a 2.50 GAA, one shutout and .866 save percentage.

Jewell, Romo, Bast, Friedman and Weinstock are all California natives.

The WCRHL regional championships took place March 3-4 in Corona.

Gittings earned the Most Valuable Goaltender award after posting a scintillating 1.62 goals-against average and .900 save percentage to lead all netminders in the opening round-robin.

Richter paced ASU with one goal and one assist in the Division I championship game —a 3-2 win over Cal Poly SLO — while Jewell and Haveman each chipped in with one goal. Haveman notched the game-winner to earn the Division I Most Valuable Player award.

The Sun Devils’ draw at nationals is challenging with Michigan State, Neumann University and Lindenwood University all in the same round-robin pool. Lindenwood finished runner-up to Farmingdale State in last year’s national championship game while Neumann advanced to the quarterfinals (along with ASU and Michigan State).

Farmingdale State defeated the Sud Devils (quarterfinals), UC Santa Barbara (semifinals) and Lindenwood (finals) to win last year’s Division I championship.

This year’s Division I NCRHA field includes 17 teams.

UC Santa Barbara, with a 15-5-0-5 overall record, looks to be equally competitive in Fargo. The Gauchos lost 3-2 in overtime to ASU in pool play at this year’s WCRHL regionals and dropped a 5-4 OT decision to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in the regional semifinals.

Kevin Mooney leads Santa Barbara in season scoring with 43 goals and 93 points, followed by Jack Mathews with 38 goals and 60 points. Mathews tops the Gauchos with 11 power-play goals and seven game-winning goals; Mooney ranks second on the team with our game-winning goals and tops the team with two shorthanded goals.

Santa Barbara is another team with lethal firepower. Other top scorers include Andrew Vieyra with 28 points, Duncan Prince with 19 points, Justin Kirker with 17 points, Cole Kennedy with 16 points, Trevor Millikan and Tyler Barone each with 15 points and Jaan Turia with 10 points.

Justin Burger is 15-10 with a 3.87 GAA, one shutout and .808 save percentage in 25 game appearances.

Mooney topped all WCRHL Division I scorers during regular season play with 35 goals, 42 assists and 77 points in 21 games. Mathews ranked second in the division with 32 goals and 50 points.

Division II

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NAU and Arizona both advanced as far as last year’s Sweet Sixteen round. Both sport top-end records this season: the Lumberjacks at 16-4-0-2 and the Wildcats at 16-8-0-2.

NAU’s pool at this year’s NCRHA nationals includes East Carolina, Northeastern and Florida; Arizona has the Rochester Institute of Technology, Kansas State and San Jose State in its pool.

Trevor Riffey, a native of Alta Loma and among six Californians on the team, remains NAU’s scoring machine with 43 goals and 62 points in 19 games this season. He’s followed on the score sheet by teammate Joshua Roof with 22 goals and 37 points.

Daniel Diaz, who possesses a team- leading 25 assists, ranks third on the team with 34 points, followed by Austin Wright (Poway) with 33 points, Camden Taylor with 24 points, Trevor Scott (Huntington Beach) with 23 points and Austin Cannon with 20 points.

Wright ranks third on the team with 17 goals; Cannon is fourth with 13 goals.

Overall, 14 players have scored goals for the Lumberjacks this season, including seven players who have scored in double-digit goals.

Riffey, the Division II MVP at this year’s WCRHL regionals, tops the team with six game-winning goals, 10 power play goals and six shorthanded goals. Roof, Cannon and Tyler Miller each have potted two game-winners this season. Roof also had five power-play goals to his credit.

Goaltender Anders Hultgren (Anaheim Hills) is 12-6 on the season with a 5.23 GAA and .746 save percentage.

NAU finished third in the regular season WCRHL standings behind leader San Jose State and runner-up Arizona. However, the Lumberjacks finished 4-0 at the ensuing regionals.

NAU defeated Pomona 8-5 in the semifinals and topped Arizona 8-6 in the championship game. The ‘Jacks scored two goals in the final three seconds to win this year’s regional title in thrilling fashion.

Riffey came up big for the Lumberjacks in the regional championship game with four goals and one assist. He scored what proved to be the game-winning goal and assisted on an empty-net goal to seal the come-from-behind win.

David Santos tops Arizona in season scoring with 33 goals and 64 points in 25 games. He’s followed by teammates Jacob Toro with 24 goals and 44 points, Tanner Ferrandi with 23 goals and 40 points, Joseph Riffitts with 25 goals and 39 points and Ben Jackson with 17 goals and 36 points.

Toro and Riffitts top the Wildcats with four game-winning goals each while Santos has three game-winners.

Brett Bushnell has posted a 9-4 record, 3.29 GAA with a .864 save percentage in 13 game appearances.

Kenneth Eakle, a Huntington Beach native, earned the Division II Most Valuable Goaltender award at the WCRHL regionals. He finished the season with a 7-5 record in 12 game appearances to go with a 3.23 GAA and .846 save percentage and one shutout.

San Jose State topped the division with a 13-3 regular season record but dropped a 4-2 decision to Arizona in the semifinals at the WCRHL regionals.

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The Spartans are now 15-4 on the season. Team scoring leaders include Jacob Hickey with 50 points, Christian Sy with 46 points, Trever Rivera with 31 points, Lachlan Williams with 28 points and Andrew Sy with 20 points.

Christian Sy leads San Jose State with 24 goals while Hickey tops the team with 32 assists. Christian Sy and Rivera each have four game-winning goals while Williams has three game-winners.

Jack Robinson, who guided West Valley to last year’s Junior College Division championship, has notched an 8-3-0 record with a 3.73 GAA and .842 save percentage in 12 game appearances in the move to the Division II ranks. Peter Simonsen played in eight games with a lethal 1.41 GAA. .923 save percentage and two shutouts.

The Spartans will play the same round-robin schedule as Arizona at the 2018 NCRHA nationals.

Pomona’s draw at this year’s national championship tournament includes Stony Brook, Yeshiva and Missouri S&T.

The Broncos are led in scoring by Derick Rosas with 28 goals and 67 points, Logan Penning with 18 goals and 28 points, Peter Kuetzing with 17 goals and 25 points, Trevor Cochran with 10 goals and 25 points, Matthew Moore with 12 goals and 25 points, Mitchell Palafox with 14 goals and 24 points and Ian Duffy with 16 goals and 23 points.

Seven players in the lineup have scored more than 20 points this season. Rosas and Palafox top the team with four game-winning goals.

Garrett Griffin has posted a 15-8-1 record with a 3.20 GAA, four shutouts and a .865 save percentage in 24 game appearances.

The Broncos, who finished fourth in the regular season WCRHL standings, take an overall 15-7-1-1 record into nationals.

A total of 20 teams will compete for this year’s Division II national title.

Division III

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ASU’s Division III team finished 4-0 at this year’s WCRHL regionals, topping West Valley College 10-4 in the semifinals and Cal Poly SLO 7-4 in the championship game.

The Sun Devils’ draw in this year’s NCRHA Division III tournament is no less daunting than that by ASU’s Division I squad. The Sun Devils will face Lindenwood, Farmingdale State and Michigan State in round-robin play.

Lindenwood topped Farmingdale State to win last year’s Division III national championship. Farmingdale State eliminated Michigan State in the semifinals.

The Sun Devils, who did not compete at last year’s nationals, head into this year’s Division III national championship tournament riding a monstrous 19-game winning streak.

In 21 total games this season, Paxton Parker tops ASU in team scoring with 73 points (29 goals, 44 assists), followed by Jordan Behm with 56 points (36 goals, 20 assists), John Henze with 48 points (22 goals, 46 assists), Clay Heinze with 47 points (28 goals, 19 assists), Clint Tapsell with 45 points (27 goals, 18 assists) and Shaun McDonald with 43 points (17 goals, 26 points).

Parker leads the team with seven game-winning goals while Behm tops the team with six power-play goals.

Ruby is 20-1 between the pipes with a 2.33 GAA, .854 save percentage and seven shutouts.

The Sun Devils appear primed to make a statement in North Dakota.

Cal Poly SLO, which tied ASU with a 15-1 regular season record to top the WCRHL standings, could also make its share of noise. The Mustangs will face Bethel, Grand Valley State and Slippery Rock in the round-robin at this year’s nationals.

Jake Mandel leads Cal Poly in season scoring with 36 goals and 55 points in 21 games, followed by Marley Stallings with 29 goals and 48 goals in a like number of games. Jared McMullen ranks third on the team with 47 points but is second with 31 goals.

SLO’s offensive-minded attack includes nine players who have picked up more than 25 points on the season. All nine players have racked up double-digits in number of goals scored.

Mandel tops the Mustangs with seven power play and four game-winning goals. Matthew Dodds has played the majority of minutes between the pipes with a 14-2-0 record, 3.69 GAA, three shutouts and .787 save percentage.

West Valley finished third in the regular season WCRHL Division III standings with a 12-4 record while Pomona finished seventh with a 4-11-0-1 record.

Both West Valley and Pomona are in the same pool at nationals alongside Rowan University and Florida Gulf Coast.

West Valley is led by scoring by Justin Furtado (36 goals, 58 points) and Joseph Furtado (22 goals, 55 points). Kenneth Burns tops Pomona with 10 points in 16 games.

Junior College Division

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West Valley and Saddleback are joined by Meramec Community College, Henry Ford College and St. Louis Community College in this year’s national championship field.

Saddleback defeated West Valley in both regular season matchups for 2017-18 WCRHL bragging rights. The Gauchos take an 11-5 record into this year’s NCRHA nationals while West Valley is 8-5-0-3.

Saddleback finished runner-up at the 2013 national championship tournament. The Gauchos are making a return to WCRHL play this season.

Saddleback scoring leaders include Jackson Faught with 20 points, Spencer Gaalass with 19 points, Mason Pilkington and Riley Hummitsch with 17 points each, George Godinez with 14 points and Ruslan Patterson with 11 points. Hummitsch has notched four game-winners while Pilkington has three.

Goaltenders Seth Martin and Leks Zendejas have each appeared in nine games for Saddleback. Martin is 6-3-0 with a 3.68 GAA and .836 save percentage while Zendejas is 5-2-0 with a 3.89 GAA and .833 save percentage.

West Valley is led in team scoring by Joseph Kubani (21 goals, 37 points) and Matt Swanson (23 goals, 36 points). Vincent Sy is 8-8 with a 3.62 GAA and .803 save percentage.

West Valley College, San Jose State photos/Ed Salazar

— Phillip Brents

(April 11, 2018)