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Fraser Valley, Mavericks, CAMO, and Saskatchewan win National Championships in Calgary

The 2019 NCL season came to a close this past weekend in Calgary with 18 teams playing for a chance to be crowned 16U and 19U National Champions. CAMO, Fraser Valley, Mavericks and Saskatchewan won the National Championships in the 19U Women, 16U Girls, 16U Boys, and 19U Men's categories, respectively.

The 2019 National Finals was held over a 3-day period at the Repsol Sport Centre, with 38 games being played to determine the National Champion in each age category. This year's finals featured a lot of parity, with many close games, and the championships in doubt to the very last second.

16U Girls

The 16U Girls tournament began with a four-team round-robin between CAMO, Dollard, Fraser Valley, and Pacific Storm. Fraser Valley came in as the second seed from the West but came out of the round robin as the top seed with a 2-1 record. The best game from them came during the first match against CAMO. The game was close throughout the first three quarters as both teams were making adjustments. However, with five minutes remaining in the game, CAMO held a 12-9 lead. With a win almost out of reach, Annika Reinjfell of Fraser Valley jump-started the comeback with back-to-back goals less than a minute apart to pull within one. With momentum on their side, Fraser Valley would score two more goals and hold CAMO to nothing the rest of the way to win the game 13-12.

The second spot in the finals would be decided by a rematch of the Eastern Conference Championship game with Dollard facing off against CAMO. CAMO would start the game hot as they would score 7 goals in the first two quarters to take a 7-3 lead. Dollard did not give up as they went on a run of their own scoring four straight goals to tie the game. With one quarter left, CAMO would get back on track as they scored two goals in the quarter and Most Valuable Goaltender Capucine Monteil shut the door as CAMO would hold on to win the game 9-7 and advance to the gold medal game.

The bronze medal game started out as a defensive affair between Dollard and Pacific Storm as there was only one goal scored in the first quarter. Pacific Storm started the second on a streak as they scored three quick goals to take a 4-1 lead. Unfortunately for Pacific Storm, the lead would not last too long as Dollard went on a streak of their own scoring nine straight goals to take a 10-4 lead. Storm tried to chip away at the deficit, but Dollard's defence with the help of Most Valuable Defensive Player Serena Browne held them to just two more goals as Dollard would take the bronze medal game 11-6.

The gold medal game featured the top two teams during the regular season in CAMO and Fraser Valley. Fraser Valley had finished the Conference Championship with a silver medal and was hoping to have a better outcome in this gold medal game. They started well with five straight goals to open the game. The game was far from over, however, as CAMO would score three straight to come within two. The game became tight after the second quarter as each team did not want to give up an inch. In the fourth 16U MVP Brynn Jonatschick sealed the deal for Fraser Valley as she would score three goals in the quarter to lead her team to an 11-5 victory and their first 16U girls' championship since 2016.

16U Boys

The 16U Boys competition used the same format as the girls' category. West Coast Warriors and Fraser Valley represented the Western Conference, while the East stayed the same as last year with Mavericks and Montreal Machine qualifying.

The Mavericks came into the event as heavy favourites and did not disappoint in the round robin as they went a perfect 3-0 and won all of their game by 8 or more goals. Their advancement to the gold medal game was a testament of their high powered offence with 16U MVP Karim Aboudaoud scoring an outstanding 13 goals in the three games.

The battle for the second spot in the gold medal game was a rematch of the Western Conference finals, with the West Coast Warriors facing Fraser Valley. Fraser Valley had beaten the West Coast Warriors two out of the last three games and were looking to continue the trend. The West Coast Warriors had other plans as they scored six goals in the first quarter to take a 6-0 lead into the opening break. Despite a comfortable lead, the Warriors did not get complacent, continuing to expand their lead as the game moved along. Most Valuable Defensive Player Adam Carter contributing four goals along with a solid defensive outing to help lead his team to a 15-8 win and a date with the Mavericks in the gold medal game.

The bronze medal match featured defending bronze medalist Montreal Machine against Fraser Valley. Montreal Machine was looking for their third straight bronze medal while Fraser Valley was looking for their first ever 16U Boys medal. Fraser Valley had defeated Montreal Machine in their round-robin match up during the Finals and seemed to have the advantage coming into the match. When the game started, the edge swung quickly to Montreal Machine as their offence would score four straight goals while the defence would hold Fraser Valley's offence to two goals in the first two quarters. By the time quarter two was over, the Machine had a 7-2 lead with Vladyslav Shabalin having three of those goals. Fraser Valley would mount a furious comeback in the fourth and came within two goals of Machine. Time for Fraser Valley would run out, however, and Montreal Machine would hold on to win their third straight bronze medal 10-8.

The gold medal match featured back-to-back champion Mavericks and relative newcomer West Coast Warriors. The West Coast Warriors qualified last year as the Spartans but finished in fourth place. With a chance to go from 4th to 1st this year, the Warriors defence started the game on fire as they only allowed two goals in the first against the Mavericks' top scoring offence. In the second the Warriors grabbed a quick goal to take the lead and put some pressure on the Mavericks to get their stifled offence going. Mavericks had faced almost no scoreboard pressure all season long, so it was fair to wonder how the defending champions would respond. It didn't take long for that question to be answered as Mavericks would go on a four-goal run to take a three-goal lead. The West Coast Warriors showed their mettle by responding with a three-goal run of their own to tie the game, but from there the Mavericks were able to reach a gear that the Warriors simply could not match. Most Valuable Goalie Luka Jankovic would only allow four more goals the rest of the way and the offence would score 12 more to remove all doubt as they would go on to win the gold medal game 18-10. The win marked the Mavericks third straight championship as well as an astounding 75 games unbeaten streak.

19U Women

The 19U Women's tournament started with a preliminary round to determine the seeding of the five competing teams: Calgary Renegades, CAMO, Dollard, Edmonton Tsunami and Saskatchewan. CAMO advanced to the semi-final as the number one seed after going 2-0 in the preliminaries. They would face off against the winner of the quarter-final game between the 4th and 5th seeds. With a three-way tie between Calgary Renegades, Edmonton Tsunami and Saskatchewan, goal-differential had to be used to decide who automatically qualified for the semi-finals and who had to play Dollard in the quarter-finals. Edmonton Tsunami and Saskatchewan would benefit as they would face each other in the semi-finals while the Calgary Renegades would face Dollard.

The quarter-final between Calgary Renegades and Dollard was close at the start as neither team was looking to go home early. For the first two quarters, the Renegades would grab a two-goal lead only for Dollard to tie it back up. This continued into the third when the Renegades special teams stepped up. Up by only a single goal, Renegades would capitalize on back-back power plays, followed by an Ashley O'Neil penalty shot, to extend their lead to four goals. Dollard would get within two in the fourth, but the Renegades would score three straight goals to clinch the win 12-7.

After defeating Dollard, the Calgary Renegades would face CAMO in the semi-finals. This match featured the Conference Champions from both the East and West and was set up to be a tight one in front of a raucous home crowd. The game lived up to expectations as it was close throughout, with CAMO leading through most of it. In the fourth, CAMO would extend its lead to four thanks to 19U MVP Apryl Gonzalez's fifth goal of the game. With the game getting out of reach, the Renegades started to chip away at the lead. Stefania Mic and Alison Cameron provided the goals as they would score a combined four in the quarter to get within one with less than a minute to go in the game. With seconds to go, the Renegades had one last chance to tie, but the last second shot from the hole would be blocked from behind to secure CAMO's spot in the gold medal game.

The second semi-final game featured Edmonton Tsunami and defending national champion Saskatchewan. Saskatchewan got off to a quick start and held a 4-2 lead in the 2nd quarter when the Tsunami offence came to life, scoring five goals in the quarter to take a 7-5 lead. Now in the lead, the Tsunami slowed things down as they would only allow three more goals in the game thanks to great goaltending by Most Valuable Goaltender Julia Zebak. The offence continued to score and maintained its lead throughout the game to take it 11-8 and advance to their first-ever NCL National Championship Final.

In the bronze medal game, the Calgary Renegades and Saskatchewan were both coming off tough losses in the semi-finals and were looking to finish the season on a high note. Saskatchewan started the game off strong as they went on an 8-3 run. The Renegades, who had made multiple comebacks in the Western Conference Championships, began to claw back in the third with five straight goals to tie the game. In the fourth, Emilia Schorr scored the go-ahead goal with less than six minutes in the game to cap off the comeback. With momentum strongly against them, Saskatchewan did not give in, tying the game a minute later and then after another Renegades goal, drawing even once again. With a shootout looming, Paige Donald scored a beautiful top-shelf power-play goal to put Saskatchewan up 11-10 and bring home the bronze medal.

The gold medal match was an absolute classic between CAMO and Edmonton Tsunami. CAMO was looking to win their fourth NCL National Championship in five years while the Tsunami were looking for their first. The game was also a rematch of last years' bronze medal match where the Tsunami topped CAMO in a shootout to win bronze.

Both teams could rely on great defences and goaltending all season long, and the final was a fitting demonstration of those strengths. Only one goal was scored in the first quarter, appropriately enough by Most Valuable Defensive Player, Taylor Halbauer. The game continued to be a defensive battle as the match progressed, but Tsunami was able to claw ahead by a 6-3 margin by the fourth period. Even though CAMO needed three goals in one period to tie, they also knew that thanks to the strong play of their goaltending tandem of Alexandra Martin and Marianne Bouchard-Côté, they still had a chance to pull this match out. Two quick goals by CAMO ratcheted up the intensity, and anything seemed possible as the clock ticked under one minute to play. Needing a goal, CAMO moved their goalie into the attacking zone to create a 7 on 6 advantage. After CAMO working the ball around, Nahla El Mahboubi managed to find a window of space on the right side and buried her chance to tie the game with 28 seconds to go. Edmonton could not capitalize on a late power play of their own, so the game would need to be decided in a shootout, the first and only shootout of the 2019 National Finals. With momentum clearly in their favour, CAMO capitalized by scoring on all of their chances from the 5-meter line. Marianne Bouchard-Côté would provide two stops on the other end, and that would be enough to earn CAMO their 4th title in 5 years.

19U Men

The 19U Men's tournament started the same way as the 19U Women's, with a preliminary round before the knockout stages for the five teams: Golden Titans, Fraser Valley, Mavericks, Pacific Storm and Saskatchewan. Golden Titans and Mavericks both finished at 2-0, but the Mavericks won the tiebreaker and clinched the top seed while the Golden Titans would face Saskatchewan in the semi-finals.

The quarter-final featured Fraser Valley and Pacific Storm who both went 0-2 in the preliminaries. Pacific Storm defeated Fraser Valley in the semi-finals at the Western Conference Championship, but Fraser Valley had defeated them three of the last five times. Pacific Storm held the lead most of the game, and in the fourth quarter, they were up 10-6. Fraser Valley would strike back with four straight goals in a little over two minutes to tie the game at ten apiece. With the tide turning, Pacific Storm needed a spark, and they got it from Maxwell Macmillan who scored his fourth goal of the game with less than a minute to go to send Pacific Storm to the semi-finals with an 11-10 win.

With their victory in the quarter-finals, Pacific Storm would face Mavericks in the semi-finals. Having to play two tough games in one day took its toll on the Storm as their offence could not get anything going against a well-rested Mavericks defence. Defensively, the Storm stood tall as the Mavericks could not take complete control of the game either. On the Mavericks side, Most Valuable Defensive Player Bor Tanasijevic did his part as he was the marquee person on defence as well as offence as he scored half of his team's goals with four. While Pacific Storm kept it close, Mavericks would eventually take the game 8-5 and advance to the gold medal game.

The second semi-final featured the Eastern Conference gold medalists in Golden Titans and the Western gold medalists and Crossover champion Saskatchewan. Both teams were evenly matched and the biggest lead in the game never more than two goals. The defence was strong on both sides, and goals were not easy to come by. 19U MVP Stephen Gloade lead the way at the beginning with three goals in the first three periods and helped keep his team in the lead. The story of the game was the Golden Titans being unable to get over the hump against Saskatchewan. On six different occasions, Golden Titans tied the game after falling behind, but not once could they find the goal that would have put them in the lead. Full credit has to be given to Saskatchewan, who were able to find a timely goal every time they needed to. In the end, the prairie boys were able to hold off a great Golden Titans team to win 8-7 and secure Sask's place in their first ever 19U Men's National Championship game.

In the bronze medal game, the Golden Titans and Pacific Storm were looking to end their seasons with some hardware. The Golden Titans came into the game focused, not letting the semi-final result affect their play at all. Bogdan Djerkovic and Diego Gonzalez led the way with four goals each as the Golden Titans cruised to a 14-6 victory to earn the bronze medal.

The gold medal match was a battle of the heavyweights as both teams had lost a combined three games all season long. Saskatchewan had lost a tough one against Mavericks in the preliminary round but was hoping to use that game as a learning experience for the rematch. As is customary for both teams, the defence was the story of the game. Most Valuable Goaltender Brody McKnight of Saskatchewan and Minos Kotzambasis of Mavericks each had themselves a game, performing admirably throughout. Entering the third, Saskatchewan held a small 5-4 lead and needed some breathing room with the Mavericks only a shot away from tying the game. Bruno Marunica and Nathanial Eidsness stepped up for Saskatchewan as they would score the only goals in the third to extend the lead to three. In the fourth, the Mavericks tried to catch up, but just as in the semi-finals, Saskatchewan kept matching their opponent's goals with one of their own. In the end, Saskatchewan's defence was just too much as they claimed their first 19U Men's National Championship 10-7.

Water Polo Canada would like to especially thank the volunteers from the local clubs in Calgary who were integral in hosting the 2019 National Finals. Water Polo Canada will also like to sincerely thank all of the parents, athletes, coaches, managers, referees, club officials, PSO staff, and volunteers that made the 2018-2019 NCL season possible. We hope to see you all in 2019-2020.

2019 National Finals – Final Results

16U Girls

  1. Fraser Valley
  2. CAMO
  3. Dollard
  4. Pacific Storm

16U Boys

  1. Mavericks
  2. West Coast Warriors
  3. Montreal Machine
  4. Fraser Valley

19U Women

  1. CAMO
  2. Edmonton Tsunami
  3. Saskatchewan
  4. Calgary Renegades
  5. Dollard

19U Men

  1. Saskatchewan
  2. Mavericks
  3. Golden Titans
  4. Pacific Storm
  5. Fraser Valley

Individual Award Winners:

16U Boys

MVP: Karim Aboudaoud, Mavericks
MVDP: Adam Carter, West Coast Warriors
MVG: Luka Jankovic,Mavericks
MVC: Nishant Damani , Mavericks

16U Girls

MVP: Brynn Jonatschick, Fraser Valley
MVDP: Serena Browne, Dollard
MVG: Capucine Monteil, CAMO
MVC: Michel Roy, Fraser Valley

19U Women

MVP: Apryl Gonzalez, CAMO
MVDP: Taylor Halbauer, Edmonton Tsunami
MVG: Julia Zebak, Edmonton Tsunami
MVC: Alexandre Pratte, CAMO

19U Men

MVP: Stephen Gloade, Saskatchewan
MVDP: Bor Tanasijevic, Mavericks
MVG: Brody McKnight, Saskatchewan

MVC: Dave Boan, Saskatchewan

NCL Club Cup

  1. Mavericks – 26 points
  2. Saskatchewan – 16 points
  3. CAMO – 16 points

The NCL Club Cup was awarded for the first time at the 2019 NCL Gala. Clubs accumulate points through their performance at NCL Conference Championships and National Finals (14U, 16U, 19U, & Senior). Clubs earn 6 points for Gold, 4 points for Silver, and 2 points for Bronze at each National Finals Event, and 3 points for Gold, 2 points for Silver, and 1 point for Bronze at each Conference Championship event. The retroactive winners of this award are 2015 – CAMO (30 points), 2016 – CAMO (32 points), 2017 – CAMO (27 points), and 2018 – Dollard (26 points).



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