NARCh Finals to showcase return to the rink as 2021 gets game back to normal
It appeared the 2020-21 inline hockey season might be another unfortunate casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic following the cancellation of the NARCh Finals last autumn and the NARCh Winternationals in February.
But following revised restrictions and health protocols issued by California Gov. Gavin Newsom in March, teams were able to return to the playing court in April.
Since then, roller hockey appears to have found its “new normal” as regional events once again started to blossom in the Golden State.
The biggest roller hockey tournament to date is set to face off July 9-17 as the NARCh Finals descend on The Rinks-Irvine Inline. A very healthy slate of 511 games are scheduled.
The cancellation of the standalone NARCh Winternationals, considered second only in scope to the summertime NARCh Finals, was certainly a blow. But it turned out not to be a fatal one.
“Probably the toughest part were those months where tournaments were allowed in some states, but not others,” NARCh president Daryn Goodwin said. “California was the last to open. We had many tournaments moved or canceled and just had some bad luck on top of the pandemic. For example, we had a tournament scheduled in Pennsylvania which was allowing it, but cases rose and by the time the tournament date approached the state shut down again. It was very challenging, and frustrating.”
Northern California was among the last regions in California to open. As a result, Goodwin had to relocate the regional tournament scheduled for San Jose to Sonora in mid-June.
NARCh’s first event of 2021 was the Southern California regional tournament April 22-25 in Irvine that attracted 114 teams. Goodwin noted the number of entries were almost identical to the same event that took place in 2019 before the start of the pandemic.
“Our first big event in California the end of April was great,” Goodwin said. “Most players and families were grateful to get back to playing even with the restrictions.”
Goodwin admitted numbers for the upcoming NARCh Finals will likely not match those from 2019.
“The NARCh Finals numbers will definitely be down mainly due to the fact that we always get strong Canadian participation and international teams and they’re just not coming mainly due to travel restrictions and quarantine rules still in place,” he said.
Otherwise, the interest at the domestic level, especially in California, and specifically from Southern California, remains strong.
With NARCh back up and running and coronavirus infection rates at their lowest since the pandemic was declared in March 2020, other exciting options are starting to open up as well.
Goodwin announced that the Pacific Cup championship tournament will take place Sept. 10-12 in Irvine. Divisions offered include 6U, 8U, 10U, 12U, Girls 13U, 14U, 16U, 18U, 21U, men’s and women’s.
“Due to the pandemic lasting longer than I anticipated, there were really only Pacific Cup events in Arizona,” Goodwin said. “The typical qualifications and having to play in three events to qualify are lifted and this is just an open tournament that any team can participate in.”
Skills competitions at the NARCh Finals – skate, shoot and save – include awards for fastest skater, sniper and top goaltender and are open to all players in all divisions.
Back to the rink
NARCh’s Irvine regional annually ranks as one of the tournament series’ top draws, traditionally ranking behind only the NARCh Finals and NARCh Winternationals in terms of attendance. This year was no different with some spill-over games scheduled at The Rinks-Corona Inline.
Age groups and gender fields were well represented across the board as the delayed 2020-21 season faced off. Go-to divisions included NARCh Pro/Men’s Platinum, Cub (6U), Atom (8U), Mite (10U), Squirt (12U), Pee Wee (14U), Bantam (16U), Midget (18U), Junior (21U), Men’s Gold/Silver, 40 & Over and Women’s.
These 12 major divisions were broken down further to 24 sub-divisions for awards.
A robust field of 10 teams competed in the top flight NARCh Pro/Platinum division while the Squirt division attracted 18 teams. The Pee Wee division fielded 16 teams while the Bantam division had 14 teams.
A total of 268 games determined the final order of finish.
Teams competing in the elite NARCh Pro/Platinum division included Apex Mavin, Buzz, Kamagraf, Pama Labeda Golden Knights, Pama Labeda Golden Knights Pro, Rink Rat, Skittles, Stingrays, Tour Roadrunners and Westcoast Cottonmouths.
Sixteen round-robin games funneled teams into Platinum and Pro playoffs. Skittles and Apex Mavin survived quarterfinal round matchups to advance to the Platinum semifinals while semifinal matchups in the Pro division included the Pama Labeda Golden Knights against the Pama Labeda Golden Knights Pro and Rink Rat versus the Tour Roadrunners.
Platinum semifinal winners included Skittles (5-4 over Buzz) and Kamagraf (3-2 over Apex Mavin). Kamagraf defeated Skittles, 5-3, in the championship game.
Pro semifinal winners included the Pama Labeda Golden Knights Pro (5-3 over the Pama Labeda Golden Knights) and the Roadrunners (4-2 over Rink Rat). The Roadrunners came out on top in the championship game with a tight 5-4 victory.
Travis Noe of the Golden Knights Pro earned the division high scorer award with 11 points while teammate Clay Taylor received the top goaltender award with a 0.900 save percentage.
Youth division champions included the Bulldogs Blue (Cub, Atom Silver, Mite Silver), Bulldogs Black (Atom Gold), Labeda Jets (Mite Gold, Bantam Gold), Pama Labeda Golden Knights (Squirt Platinum), Tour OC Blades 08 (Squirt Gold), Renegades (Squirt Silver), Konixx Outcasts 05 (Pee Wee Platinum), Angry Ducks 06 (Squirt Gold, Bantam Platinum), NorCal River Rats (Pee Wee Silver), Konixx Outcasts 04 (Bantam Silver), Tour Roadrunners (Midget Platinum) and Labeda Mayhem (Midget Gold).
Other adult division champions included the Tour Roadrunners (Junior Platinum), Sin City Barons (Junior Gold), Rink Rat Republic (Women’s Platinum), Tour Aztecs (Women’s Gold), Westside Boyz (Men’s Gold), Irvine Chesters (Men’s Silver) and Labeda Originals (40 & Over).
Youth division runners-up included the OC Blades (Cub), Angry Ducks (Atom Gold), Raider Jets (Atom Silver), Tour OC Blades (Mite Gold), Bulldogs Black (Mite Silver), Labeda Jets AA (Squirt Platinum), Konixx Knighthawks (Squirt Gold), Konixx Outcasts (Squirt Silver), Bulldogs Blue (Pee Wee Platinum), Labeda Mayhem (Pee Wee Gold, Bantam Silver), AZ Outlaws (Pee Wee Silver), Pama Labeda Golden Knights (Bantam Platinum), Konixx Warriors (Bantam Gold), Smurfs (Midget Platinum) and Velocity (Midget Gold).
Adult division runners-up included Skittles (Junior Platinum), Konixx Outcasts (Junior Gold), Rejects (Women’s Platinum), Valkyrie (Women’s Gold), Super Konixx (Men’s Gold), Tour Aztecs (Men’s Silver) and Pama Labeda Golden Knights (40&Over).
Top individual awards for division high scorer and top goaltender were tallied through round-robin play.
Trevor Connelly of the Angry Ducks 06 earned the high scorer award in two youth divisions. He led all scorers in the Pee Wee division with 13 goals and 19 points and had eight goals and 14 points in the Bantam division.
Other division high scorer award winners included Bryson Spence of the Bulldogs Black with 13 goals and 17 points in the Atom division, Frankie Jirak of the Tour Roadrunners with 10 goals and 14 points in the Midget division, Aidan Yu of the Pama Labeda Golden Knights with seven goals and 12 points in the Squirt division and Gavin Molina of the AZ Outlaws with nine goals and 11 points in the Mite division.
Quinlen Johnston of the Bulldogs Blue led all youth top goaltenders with a 1.000 save percentage in the Pee Wee division.
Other division top goaltender award-winners included Sean Smear of the Pama Labeda Golden Knights with a .936 save percentage in the Bantam division, Benton Sherill of the Bulldogs Black with a .933 save percentage in the Atom division, Liam Becker of the Tour OC Blades with a .906 save percentage in the Mite division, Keanu Gonzalez and Brody Massi of the Labeda Jets AA with a .888 save percentage in the Squirt division and Kameron Ragon of the Tour Roadrunners with a .863 save percentage in the Midget division,
In the adult divisions, high scorer award-winners included Joe DiMartino of the Tour Roadrunners with eight points in the Junior division, Allison Era of Rink Rat Republic with seven points in the Women’s division, Josh Cordell of the Bullfrogs with seven points in the 40 & Over division and Ian Bast of Super Konixx with seven points in the Men’s Gold/Silver division.
Top goaltender award-winners included Taylor Huynh of Rink Rat Republic with a 1.000 save percentage in the Women’s division, Josh Thompson of the Westside Boyz with a .937 save percentage in the Men’s Gold/Silver division, Aaron Parsons of Skittles with a 0.892 save percentage in the Junior division and Earl Vinson of the Labeda Originals with a .884 save percentage in the 40 & Over division.
The NARCh season continued to roll with a regional tournament May 14-16 at the Escondido Sports Center in North San Diego County. The playing field featured 43 teams spread across 12 subdivisions for awards, including girls and men’s divisions.
Division champions included the Tour OC Blades (6U, Girls 13U, 16U), San Diego Rockets (8U), Goonies (10U), San Diego Snipers (12U), Konixx Warriors (14U), Irezumi Samurais (18U), Hi-Chew SoCal (19U Girls), Smith Bros (Men’s Platinum), Westside Boyz (Men’s Gold) and Mavin (Men’s Silver).
Division runners-up included the Bulldogs (6U), AKS (8U), Temecula Warriors (10U, 16U), San Diego Selects (12U), Hi-Chew (Girls 13U), OC Blades (14U), Velocity (18U), Hi-Chew San Diego (Girls 19U), COPJ (Men’s Platinum), Chimbombe (Men’s Gold) and Whiteclaw RHC (Men’s Silver).
Parker Moskal of the OC Cowboys paced all division high scorers with 10 goals and 18 points in the Men’s Platinum division.
Division high scorer award-winners also included Kyan Tosczak of the San Diego Rockets with nine goals and 13 points in the 8U division, Carter Gomez of the Tour OC Blades with nine goals and 10 points in the 6U division and Andy Bernard of the Goonies with six goals and 10 points in the 10U division,
Noe Santos of Velocity potted six goals and nine points to earn the high scorer award in the 18U division while additional high scorer award-winners included William Anderson of the San Diego Snipers with five goals and eight points in the 12U division, Logan Wise of the Konixx Warriors with five goals and eight points in the 14 U division, Kory Medeiros of the Westside Boyz with five goals and seven points in the Men’s Gold/Silver division, Sam Dunford of the Temecula Warriors with seven points in the 16U division, Allie Lalonde of Hi-Chew SoCal with six goals in the Girls 19U division and Sara Carrion of the Tour OC Blades with four points in the Girls 13U division.
Two netminders recorded perfect 1.000 save percentages in round-robin play: Kingston Northrup of the San Diego Snipers in the 12U division and Ian Chapman of the Konixx Warriors in the 14U division.
Ella Park finished with two division top goaltender awards. She posted a .821 save percentage in the 16U division for the San Diego Rockets and had a .800 save percentage for Hi-Chew SoCal in the Girls 19U division.
Top goaltender award-winners also included Jake Johnson of the San Diego Rockets with a .923 save percentage in the 8U division, Dan Tasigeorgos of the Irezumi Samuarai with a .903 save percentage in the 18U division, Addison Wattington of the Tour OC Blades with a .894 save percentage in the Girls 13U division, Thompson of the Westside Boyz with a .884 save percentage in the Men’s Gold/Silver division, Patrick Pugliese of the OC Cowboys with a .794 save percentage in the Men’s Platinum division, Rylie McCaffrey of the Temecula Warriors with a .759 save percentage in the 10U division and Barrett Thacker of the Bulldogs with a .721 save percentage in the 6U division.
The NARCh Northern California regional took place June 11-13 at the High Country Sports Arena in Sonora. Twenty-one teams competed in nine sub-divisions for awards.
Division champions included Konixx Mutiny (8U), Pure Octane Hockey (10U, 12U), Bend (Ore.) Bullets (14U Gold), Warrior Revolution (14U Silver), Konixx Nitrous (16U), Dolomite (Men’s Platinum), Central Coast Heaters (Men’s Gold) and Bender Society (Men’s Silver).
Division runners-up included Pure Octane Hockey (8U), Bend Bullets (10U, 12U), NorCal River Rats (14U Gold), Bend Bullets White (14U Silver), Konixx Mutiny (16U), High Life (Men’s Platinum), NCIS (Men’s Gold) and Ferda (Men’s Silver).
Two youth tournaments took place in Arizona in December and January as well as two adult tournaments through February. In many instances, it provided California teams (and even elsewhere) with their first competitive venture into Arizona.
Division leaders included the Knighthawks (8U), Bulldogs Blue (10U, 14U), Oregon Rollin Reign (12U), OC Blades (16U) and Smurfs (18U).
For updates and results, visit www.narch.com.
– Phillip Brents
(July 8, 2021)