WCRHL’s second semester hits high gear
The eye is clearly on the prize with the announcement of the dates of both the Western Collegiate Roller Hockey League (WCRHL) regional and National Collegiate Roller Hockey Association (NCRHA) national championship tournaments.
The WCRHL regional is scheduled for March 5-6 at The Rinks-Corona Inline; the NCRHA nationals are scheduled for April 6-10 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Prior to that, there’s a jam-packed schedule of games leading up to both events.
“We have a busy second half of the season, with events almost every weekend until mid-February in Santa Barbara, Phoenix, Chico, Tucson and Huntington Beach,” WCRHL director Brennan Edwards said.
The top four Division I teams, as well as the top six teams in both Division II and Division III, will qualify for the WCRHL regional championships. Teams will play in a round robin on the opening day of competition and enter into elimination play on the second day. Championship games in all divisions will be contested on March 6.
The race of this season’s Division II championship looks to be extremely competitive. UC Irvine is the defending regional champion, but lost a lot of firepower during the offseason. The Anteaters found themselves trailing five teams in the standings at the semester break.
CSU Fullerton (8-1-0) held the lead with 16 points, followed by Chico State (7-0-1) with 15, UC San Diego (5-2-2) with 12 and Arizona (4-2-0) with eight.
UC Irvine entered the second semester 4-4, also with eight points in the standings. Rounding out the division were California (3-5-0) with six points, Cal Poly Pomona (2-2-0) with four and the University of San Diego (0-10-0) with zero.
Several teams expect to make up ground with back-loaded schedules.
Chico State’s lone loss to face off the 2015-16 season was in overtime to a persistent UC-San Diego team at the season-opening tournament in San Jose. The Wildcats have since gone undefeated, handing Fullerton its only loss.
Club president Cole Euell said a driving force for the team this season was its finish at last year’s NCRHA nationals; Chico State bowed to eventual national champion UMass following a 6-4 loss in the quarterfinals.
“There’s been a lot of excitement and hype going into this year following the bittersweet end to our 2014-15 season,” Euell said. “I believe that’s what’s sparked such a positive start for our team this season.
“Every single player recognizes what they need to do for our team to be successful and, without their individual contribution every game, we don’t have a team and we’re going to be the group that gets eliminated first.
“We’ve had an unbelievable start to our season, and going into this year with the same chemistry-filled group of players and the addition of two stellar freshmen, our goal and our expectation is to win regionals in Corona and get beyond the Elite Eight in nationals, which is where we placed last season.”
Defenseman Cole Wilsie led the Wildcats in scoring with 21 points at the semester break, while goaltender Michael Wood has recorded a 2.40 goals-against average and a .880 save percentage with two shutouts in eight games between the pipes.
Forward Zachary Roeland and defenseman Zachary Claunch were both tied with eight goals. Claunch was a member of Team USA’s Junior Men’s squad that placed fourth at last year’s FIRS Inline World Championship in Argentina.
Overall, nine of the team’s 11 players had contributed either a goal or assist.
“What I’ve noticed from the team that started last season to the team we have this year is confidence,” said Euell. “We’ve been getting production from every player on our roster and it shows in the way that each of us carries ourselves – a confident team eager to make amends for a season that slipped through our fingers.”
With West Valley College being the only Junior College team in the WCRHL, Edwards said the Vikings (5-2-1) are looking towards competing at nationals with a chance to play St. Charles Community College from Missouri.
“West Valley College is a good team, sitting right in between Division II and Division I teams,” Edwards said. “They’ve beaten every Division II team they’ve faced except Fullerton, and played two good games against Division I teams in November and will face Division I and Division II teams to close out the second half.”
– Phillip Brents
Photo: Led by club president Cole Euell, Chico State is poised for continued promise in the college roller circuit’s Division II bracket.