The 2016-2017 NCL season got off to a roaring start this past weekend after 54 total games were played in Regina and Montreal. 27 teams had their NCL season debuts during either the 16 and under event hosted by Dollard or the 19 and under event hosted by Saskatchewan, and based on the early results, another exciting year of water polo is shaping up.
If the games in Montreal are any indication, the 16U Girls Eastern Conference looks like it will be a tight contest this season. Two-time defending Eastern Conference champions CAMO once again have a formidable squad. The CAMO girls have not lost a game to an Eastern Conference foe over the past two seasons, and that impressive streak stretched into a 3rd season after a 3-0-0 performance at the Dollard Aquatic Centre.
Led by the goal scoring prowess of Floranne Carroll (13 goals in three games) CAMO was able to jump to the top of the table once again; however, their undefeated performance did not come easy. Both Mavericks and Capital Wave gave CAMO a run for their money, before succumbing to 10-8 and 10-6 losses respectively; but it was CAMO’s last game against host Dollard that was their toughest test of the weekend.
Last season, Dollard 16U girls surprised everyone after qualifying for the National Finals despite finishing last in the Eastern Conference regular season standings. DDO looks to have built on that final performance from last year, fielding a squad that started off the year with wins over Capital Wave and Mavericks. With a balanced scoring attack featuring Rose Kanemy (9 goals) Nadia Martyniuk (9 goals) and Casey Taylor (8 goals) to name a few, Dollard came into their last game of the weekend hoping to pull off the upset. The game was a tense affair from start to finish, with neither team ever leading by more than 2 goals. The game was tied 11-all late in the 4th quarter when an exclusion against Dollard gave CAMO a golden chance. They didn’t waste it. With one second left on the powerplay, Alicia Petkov was able to fire home the winning goal, in what would be a 13-11 victory for CAMO.
The 16U Boys competition in Montreal featured the debut of two new clubs participating in the NCL. The Montreal Machine and the Kitchener-Waterloo Inferno. With the addition of the Machine and KW, the 16U Eastern Conference features nine boys teams, a record for any NCL conference so far. KW and Montreal showed they would have no trouble competing in the NCL as both clubs picked up their first ever NCL wins in their first competition. KW got their opening win against Capital Wave 14-8 while the Machine defeated KW 9-6.
The early front-runners in the 16 and under East were CAMO and Mavericks Black. CAMO jumped out to a 3-0-0 start to the year, blitzing their opponents by averaging over twenty goals a game, while allowing less than five. Mavericks Black may have turned in an even more impressive weekend, going 5-0-0 while never letting an opponent come with 8 goals of them. Their 22-14 over two-time defending champion Dollard Black certainly announced their presence as a National Championship contender this season.
Out west, the 19 and under category got under way with 27 men’s and women’s games in Regina and the weekend could not have gone better for the host club. Both Saskatchewan’s men’s and women’s teams went undefeated in Regina, vaulting both clubs to the top of the early season leaderboard. The 19U Men’s Sask roster is filled with players that were a part of Saskatchewan’s two time defending 16 and under National Championship squad. Those athletes are now starting to make their mark on the 19U category. Sask beat each of the other teams in the Western Conference at least once over the weekend, and were never seriously threatened on the scoreboard on their way to a 6-0-0 record.
The Sask 19U Women were just as impressive as their male counterparts, going 5-0-0 in what is shaping up to be a very competitive 19 and under women’s western conference. The Sask offense was spearheaded by Devyn Smith (21 goals), Blaire McDowell (20 goals), and Adrien Van Dyke (11 goals). After two tight wins to start off their season over Pacific Storm (11-10) and the Calgary Renegades (12-7), the Sask girls carried their momentum into two more victories over the Edmonton Tsunami and the Edmonton Thunderbirds.
The wins set up a showdown with similarly undefeated Fraser Valley. Fraser Valley, like the Saskatchewan men, is starting to see the effects of their two-time defending 16U National Championship squad on their 19U roster. The game was expected to be a tight affair, and the fans were not disappointed. Saskatchewan jumped out to the early lead, but were unable to shake-off the BC girls. Fraser Valley tried to make a several runs in the 2nd half, but every time they scored, Devyn Smith seemed to have the answer for Saskatchewan. Smith’s six goals on the game ended up being enough to help Saskatchewan hold off Valley 10-8 and cap a perfect weekend for the team.
This Week in the NCL:
It’s a quiet week in the NCL with only 7 games on the docket, all in Montreal; however, the first 19U games of the season in the Eastern Conference will take place at AADDO and Claude Robillard when the Toronto Golden Jets come to town. Please see the NCL schedule for more details: http://www.waterpolo.ca/NLScheduleResult.aspx