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05.23.2018
2018 National Finals set for Montreal

After six months of intense competition, the NCL season will come to a close this weekend with the 2018 National Finals in Montreal. Four teams from each 16U category and five teams from each 19U category will descend on Montreal to try and claim the ultimate NCL prize, a National Championship.

The 16U competition will start on Thursday night at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal. The four teams in each of the girls and boys competitions (the top two teams from the Eastern and Western Conferences) will play a three-game round robin to open the tournament. The top two teams at the end of the round robin will play for gold, with third and fourth playing for bronze.

At the 16U boys level, the Mavericks will be looking to win back to back national championships. They enter Nationals as the top team from the Eastern Conference, riding an unbeaten streak that has lasted over two years. Mavericks have three dynamic scorers in Patrick Almasi (100 goals), Lazar Todorovic (76 goals), and Sergije Vrbaski (74 goals), who are all top ten in the goal scoring race.

Montreal Machine’s 16U boys enter the tournament as the second team out of the East and are looking to build upon their third-place finish last year. Machine have their own prolific goal scoring threat in Leno Salamon, whose 102 goals during the regular season led the 16U division. Machine lost a tight 12-11 game to Mavericks in the Eastern Conference Finals and will hope to be able to return the favour at the National Finals.

On the West side, Pacific Storm’s 16U boys come into the tournament as the top team from the West. They lost to the Mavericks in the gold medal game last year and are looking to take that one final step up the podium this time around. They also have a high scoring offence which includes top ten scorer Connor MacMillan (70 goals).

The Spartans round out the 16U boys competitors, earning a place in their first ever National Finals by virtue of their silver medal at the Western Championships. Spartans enter the National Finals in the underdog role, as they are the only National Finals boys’ entry who were seeded outside the top two before the start of the conference championships. Spartans know they are more than capable of topping higher seeded teams though, as they proved in their run at the Western Championships

In the 16U girls’ division, Dollard Black’s 16U squad are looking to complete a perfect season to capture the National Championship. The Dollard girls have seemingly been building towards this year’s championship for a few years now, having captured the last three 14U Eastern National Championships, as well as a bronze medal at last year’s 16U National Finals. The DDO squad features four all-stars including the top two scorers in the 16U girls’ category: Casey Taylor and Rose Kanemy.

Capital Wave’s 16U girls team enters the tournament as the second seeds from the East. They will be looking to win Capital Wave’s first National Finals medal at the 16U level. Capital Wave enters the competition with a confidence boost from their last match against DDO. Despite falling just short in the Eastern Championship by a score of 6-5, Wave gave DDO their closest match of the season and will have the belief they are peaking at just the right time of the year.

Moving to the West, Pacific Storm, much like DDO, has been building towards this year for some time as well, as winners of the least three 14U Western National Finals. The girls come enter the competition with a 16-2-2 record and a sterling +83 goal differential in a very competitive western conference. Diba Peiravani leads the way up front, with her 64 goals, tops ithe western conference. Storm will also hope to make use of their strong defense and penalty kill in their quest to win their first ever 16U girl’s National Championship.

The last team entering the final is the defending champion Calgary Renegades. Calgary embarked on a dramatic run to qualify for the finals after finishing last in the regular season and essentially needing to run the table in order to make it to Montreal. In the conference championships, their defense shined as they only allowed an average of four goals a game in their last three games. The Renegades have the chance to really make a splash in the finals if they can sustain the momentum from the conference championships.

19U competition at the National Finals will take place under a different format than the 16U tournament. Five teams are qualified for both the men and women, as the Crossover Champion is also guaranteed a spot in addition to normally reserved spots for the top two teams from the conference championships. The 19U bracket starts with the quarter final games as the teams will already be ranked based on their placing in the conference championship and NCL crossover.

On the men’s side, the Finals will kick-off with CAMO facing Fraser Valley in the quarter-final match. CAMO will be looking to Stefan Dabic (62 goals), Stefan Ignjatovic (50 goals) and Emmanuel Ramos-Garza (44 goals) to lead the offense as they all finished in the top ten in scoring for the 19U Men category. As the defending champions, CAMO will hope their experience from last year is an advantage. CAMO and Fraser Valley did meet at the Crossover in February, with CAMO emerging victorious 15-8. Fraser Valley has played much of their competition tight all year however, so it would not be a surprise to see the rematch be a much closer affair.

The winner of the quarter-final will need to face the Crossover and Western Champions from Saskatchewan in the semi-finals. Sask went 14-0-2 during the regular season and are so tough to beat because they win in multiple ways, be it offensively, defensively, or through great goaltending. They also have experience winning championships, as many of the members of this 19U squad were part of the Saskatchewan teams that won back to back national championships at 16U in 2015 and 2016. Whoever emerges to face Saskatchewan, be it CAMO or Fraser Valley can rely on the fact the both have played close games against the prairie boys.

In the other semi-final match, Dollard faces off against Pacific Storm. Dollard had a very strong season with a +/- of 129 which was second best in the Eastern Conference. After finishing first in the Quebec Division, Dollard strung together some impressive victories at the Eastern Championships to claim the gold medal. This Dollard squad is battle tested, having played many close and intense games over the course of the season. DDO will hope to rely on those close game experiences to get the two necessary victories to become National Champions. When Dollard met Storm at the Crossover, they were able to come away with a pair of victories, 14-12, and 11-4.

Pacific Storm have advanced to every single 19U men’s championship game in NCL history and will be pushing hard to continue that streak. Storm will have good memories from Montreal, having captured the 19U crown here in 2016. Storm played one of their best games of the season in the Western Finals, falling by just one goal to Saskatchewan, so the BC boys will be hoping to use that game as a building block towards success at the National Finals.

On the 19U Women’s side, the Edmonton Tsunami will face off against Capital Wave in the quarter final. Both teams enter the tournament after claiming the silver medal at their conference championships. Capital Wave has a strong offense led by Valeria Rojas who finished second in 19U Women’s scoring with 48 goals. Tsunami will be looking to build momentum from their play at the conference championships where they upset the Crossover champion Pacific Storm to advance to the gold medal game.

Pacific Storm will have the bye into the semi-finals as a result of their first place finish at the NCL Crossover and will await the winner of Tsunami-Wave. Storm did not have their best showing at their conference championships, finishing in third place, so the BC girls will be looking to recapture the form that led to their Crossover victory.

The second semi-final game is a heavy weight clash between Saskatchewan and CAMO. It is not only a rematch of the last two 19U women’s national championship games, but also pits the regular season and conference championship winners against each other. Both CAMO and Saskatchewan ran through the regular season, CAMO going a perfect 15-0-0, and Saskatchewan not far behind at 14-1-1. CAMO will be the favourites as they have won every national championship in the NCL era, but Saskatchewan was the last team to beat CAMO, defeating them at the NCL Crossover during the 2016-2017 season.

The 2018 NCL Finals will take place at the Parc Olympique and Claude-Robillard facilities from May 24-26. Attendance is free to all. For more information the event schedule and livestreaming, please visit www.waterpolo.ca

 
 
 
 

 


 
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