Field set for 2019 WCRHL regional championship tournament
The field has been set for the 2019 Western Collegiate Roller Hockey League (WCRHL) regional championship tournament scheduled March 2-3 at The Rinks-Corona Inline.
The Division I championship will feature a best-of-three series between Arizona State University (12-2) and UC Santa Barbara (9-7-0-1).
The Division II, Division III and Division IV playoff fields each consist of four teams.
Teams had a chance to sew up final playoff berths at the final regular season event Feb. 16-17 at The Rinks-Huntington Beach Inline.
Four of the six Division II teams qualified for the regional tournament. Three teams — San Jose State, Northern Arizona and the University of Arizona — entered the final regular season event vying for the division’s final playoff berth.
Regional qualifiers include Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and CSU Fullerton, both with 11-3-0-1 records, Chico State (9-6) and San Jose State (4-10-0-1). San Jose State wrapped up the final playoff berth with wins over the Arizona twins at the at HB Inline event.
Northern Arizona University finished fifth in the division standings at 2-11-0-2 while Arizona, which had to forfeit all four of its games at the season opening tournament due to an eligible player, finished sixth with a 2-13 record.
Four of the five Division III teams qualified for the regional playoffs. Qualifiers include Cal Poly Pomona (14-1), Long Beach State (8-5-0-2), UC Berkeley (7-8) and UC Irvine (6-9). UCLA (6-9) finished fifth in the regular season standings and did not qualify after dropping a 7-5 match-up to UC Irvine at the final regular season event.
Four of the seven Division IV teams qualified for the regional playoffs. Qualifiers include Arizona State (14-1), Santa Barbara (8-6-0-1), Cal Poly SLO Gold (8-7) and Arizona (7-8). Non-qualifiers included Northern Arizona (6-9), Fullerton (5-9-0-1) and Pomona (2-13).
The regional format for Division II, Division III and Division IV teams features round-robin play between each of the four qualifiers. Single-elimination semifinals will be seeded based on round-robin results, with the top-seeded team facing the fourth-seeded team and the second-seeded team facing the third-seeded team.
Semifinal winners will play for the division championship.
The winner of each division at the WCRHL’s regional championship tournament receives an automatic bid to April’s National Collegiate Roller Hockey Association (NCRHA) national championship tournament on Rochester, N.Y.
Teams are also eligible for at-large selection to fill out the competition field at the national championship event. Bids to this year’s tournament will be posted on the NCRHA’s website (www.ncrha.org) as part of Selection Monday on March 4.
The WCRHL’s Junior College Division teams bypass the regional stage and are eligible to receive bids directly to the national championship tournament.
The WCRHL’s new divisional split has definitely worked to the advantage of some teams, among them the Cal Poly Pomona Broncos in the new Division III tier. The Broncos’ final 14-1 regular season record is the best since the team returned to active playing status in 2015-16 after a four-year absence.
Pomona finished 3-0 at February’s HB Inline event that featured a sweep of UC Berkeley by scores of 11-7 and 11-0. The Broncos also defeated UCLA, 8-2, at the tournament.
Pomona takes a six-game winning streak into the regional playoffs. The Broncos’ lone loss this season has been, 6-3, to defending Junior College Division national champion Saddleback College.
The Broncos’ Derick Rosas finished as the runaway Division III regular season scoring leader with 39 goals and 67 points, followed by the UCLA tandem of Michael Nunez and Theo Haboucha each with 34 points.
UC Berkeley’s Cal McCleery and Sean Butler followed with 33 and 30 points, respectively, to round out the division’s top five point-scorers.
Haboucha ranked runner-up in the division with 25 goals.
Pomona netminder Garrett Griffin turned in a spectacular season with a 13-1 record, 1.98 goals-against average, three shutouts and .888 save percentage.
Long Beach State’s Tyler Gealy ranked second among division netminders with a 3.10 GAA and .882 save percentage.
Santa Barbara’s Kevin Mooney led Division I scorers with 63 points, followed by Gauchos teammate Andrew Vieyra with 56 points.
ASU’s Ian Bast ranked second with 18 and goals while ASU’s Chase Steele ranked third with 33 points.
Mooney led the division in both goals (29) and assists (34).
Fullerton’s Dylan Kammer paced all Division II scoring leaders in both goals (35) and points (50). Cal Poly’s Daniel Kumata finished runner-up in the scoring race with 44 points while NAU’s Brayden Kohler ranked second with 22 goals.
Cal Poly’s Nic Leacox topped all Division II goaltenders with a 2.80 GAA and .847 save percentage, tying Fullerton’s Ron Best for most wins (12). Best finished second in the division with a 3.84 GAA while San Jose State’s Jack Robinson finished runner-up with a .844 save percentage.
Cal Poly’s Marley Stallings (57 points) and Joseph Mendoza (51 points) topped the Division IV scoring leaders while Mustangs teammate Scott Vernacchia topped all division scorers with 35 goals, edging NAU’s Jeremy Mills with 34 goals.
ASU’s Scott Keohane, 44, led Division IV goaltenders with a 13-2 record, 2.47 GAA, one shutout and .861 save percentage.
Among JC Division teams, Saddleback College ended regular season play with an 11-0-0-2 record, dropping overtime contests to Division I members Arizona State and Santa Barbara, while West Valley College finished 5-11.
The JC Division’s top three scorers all hailed from Saddleback: Jackson Faught (33 points), Hayden Maxwell (26 points) and Mason Pilkington (25 points). Saddleback’s Will Shepherd and West Valley’s Joseph Furtado tied for fourth place with 19 points.
Faught led all division scorers with 22 goals while Pilkington and Maxwell tied for the division lead with 17 assists.
Saddleback goaltender Luke Benavente posted a 12-4 record, 2.95 GAA, one shutout and .853 save percentage in 16 game appearances, including non-conference match-ups.
Eye on the prize
Pool play faces off the tournament, followed by single-elimination bracket play.
The Iceplex is a 186,000-square-foot ice hockey building that features four NHL-size hockey rinks. Lattimore Arena, which is capable of seating 3,000 spectators, will house the tournament’s championship rink.
NCRHA executive director Brennan Edwards, who also serves as WCRHL director, said the NCRHA Board of Directors serves as the selection committee for national championship event locations. Edwards said NCRHA director of league operations Rob Coggin spearheads the selection process in terms of networking each year.
“Some years, we have 3-4 solid options; other years we have a front runner and a couple other bids that may not be perfect,” Edwards noted. “Rob has been talking to Rochester for more than two years now, and this year it was selected.
“The facility we are in has hosted numerous events for USA Hockey and has four sheets, of which we will take two and put down floors for our event.”
— Phillip Brents
(Feb. 24, 2019)