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NCL Notes: Standings are starting to take shape in the NCL

After four months of action, the NCL season has now reached the stretch run. With less than a month before Senior Nationals and two months before conference championships, the NCL standings are starting to take shape with few games remaining.

Out West, the standings are almost all complete in the Major League and 19U age category. This last weekend saw Major League and 19U games in Surrey, BC.

On the Major League Men’s side, Saskatchewan and Pacific Storm clinched a berth at Senior Nationals after finishing first and second in the division. With only three teams in the division, it proved to be extremely competitive. Coming into the final week, all teams were only separated by a few points. Storm would defeat Alberta and Saskatchewan over the first couple of days to clinch a spot first. With only one spot left, the last game became crucial. Saskatchewan and Alberta entered the game tied for second at 4-1-3. A win would mean they would not only clinch a berth at Senior Nationals but 1st place in the division. The game was a defensive struggle with each team having a shooting percentage of 20% or less. With few opportunities to score, Nate Eidsness of Saskatchewan led the team with 3 goals and an assist, which was the difference as Saskatchewan would win the game 7-5.

Moving to the Women’s side, the regular season also completed last weekend in Surrey. Saskatchewan finished the season a week earlier and clinched first place with a 10-2 record. The Renegades, while still having 3 games left, had also clinched a berth at National finals as well as second place in the division. The teams that still had work to do were Edmonton Tsunami and Fraser Valley. Edmonton Tsunami only needed a win or tie against Fraser Valley to clinch the last spot at National Finals. In their first meeting, the game had a playoff-like atmosphere, as this was Fraser Valley’s last chance to stave off elimination. The game was tight, with Fraser Valley entering the 4th with a 5-4 lead. Robyn Currie of Tsunami tied the game early in the fourth and the team would not fall behind again as the game ended in a 6-6 draw, which sealed Tsunami’s place at National Finals.

During the same weekend, the 19U age category also finished up their regular season. The 19U Women’s division continued to live up to its reputation as an ultra-competitive division, with many close games and no heavy favourites. The division is so competitive that every team entered the final weekend with a shot at first place. At the end of it all, Edmonton Tsunami came out on top as they went 4-1-1, which secured them first place in the division. Even after going 3-1-1 over the first 3 days, Edmonton needed a win to stay on top. Fraser Valley would not let them get it easily as they went toe-to-toe with them. With the game still in doubt, Ella Cowan scored her 3rd goal of the game to put Edmonton up 9-6 late in the 3rd. That would be enough as Tsunami would take the game 10-8. While the victory gave Tsunami an easier road in the conference championships, they cannot rest on their laurels. Sitting only two points back of them is Crossover Champion Saskatchewan, while Pacific Storm only sits 4 points back. Even though the Renegades and Fraser Valley had a rougher weekend, they still proved that they could compete with the teams that finished above them as the Renegades held Tsunami to an 8-8 draw and Fraser Valley defeated Saskatchewan 7-5 over the weekend.

Moving on to the Men’s division, West Coast Warriors had a great weekend as they went 5-0 included a stunning upset over previously undefeated Pacific Storm. The game was a classic as Storm had a 7-4 lead early in the 4th quarter. With Storm’s defence, it was not looking good for the West Coast Warriors. However, in a span of around 3 minutes, goals by Josh Lucci, Jacob Lucci and Thomas Meleady tied the game. With all the momentum, Aleks Markovic would then score the go-ahead goal as the West Coast Warriors would win the game 8-7. The win could mean something later on as the Warriors still have an outside shot at first place. Either way, the undefeated weekend pushed them above defending National Champions Saskatchewan so the Warriors can finish no lower than second in the regular season.

Moving on to the East, there is only one weekend left of games to decide the final spots for Senior Nationals. In the Men’s division, three teams have already secured a berth; Ottawa United Titans 1, Dollard Islanders and Toronto Golden Jets. The Titans cemented themselves as the favourites as they went on to defeat both Dollard and Toronto during the Feb 14-16 weekend in Toronto. The game against the Golden Jets was especially exciting as Ottawa went into half time with a 10-2 lead. While it looked like the game was over at halftime, the Golden Jets would not go down without a fight as they rang off 6 straight goals to make it a 2 goal game. After feeling the pressure all second half, the Titans would finally get a goal from Jonathan Ruse with just over two minutes in the game to shut down the comeback as they went on to win 11-9.

In the Women’s division, only one spot remains up for grabs. The two teams left to fight for that coveted spot are St-Lambert and Capital Wave. While St-Lambert holds the advantage over Wave with a six-point lead in the standings, the lead is anything but safe. That is because last year, Capital Wave looked down and out but won three straight games on the last weekend to qualify for Senior Nationals. In regards to the teams that have clinched, it is all about positioning now. There is a very tight race for first place as four teams have a legitimate shot at the top. Right now, CAMO sits in first with 22 points. Apryl Gonzalez has been leading the way offensively for CAMO with 43 points. Defending National Champions, Mavericks sit just a point back with two games in hand and will be facing CAMO in the final weekend. The game should be good as the top offence featuring Gonzalez facing off against the top defence featuring top goalie, Claire Wright. While that match will have a major impact on the standings for those two clubs, it could also have an effect on Dollard, who has quietly been staying around, sitting only 3 points back of CAMO with a game in hand. There is still much to be decided, which makes next weekend’s games crucial.

While the 19U age category in the East still has quite a few games left to play, the 16U age category is starting to finish up. Last weekend in Markham, the seeding on the girl’s side has started to look clearer. Dollard Black has been dominant this year as they are 14-0 and have a goal differential of 159. With three games still remaining, Dollard has already clinched first place in the division, which gives them a bye into the semi-finals at the conference championship. With first already decided, there was a battle for second place between Mavericks and KW Kraken. The Mavericks were able to come out of last weekend on top as they went 4-2 compared to KW’s 3-3. That was exactly what Mavericks needed as they sit four points up on KW with just one game left. While the first and second place are already wrapped up, third place is very much up in the air. While KW sits ahead of St-Lambert by 14 points, St-Lambert has 4 games in hand and has looked hot of late as they have beaten KW in 2 of the last 3 games. With one weekend left, there is still much to be decided.

On the boy’s side, nothing has been decided. In Markham, Mavericks moved back up into first place with a 3-0 weekend. While this Mavericks team is still a force to be reckoned with, they do have a tough challenge in Ottawa Titans Black. The Titans are only 7 points back with 3 games in hand. If the Titans continue the way they are playing, they have a good chance at taking the regular-season crown that Mavericks have kept for the past 3 years. Not to be outdone are Montreal Machine and Shadow. Machine held Mavericks to a draw so far this year and have made it National Finals in back-to-back years. Shadow has also been having a good season as they have played the Mavericks tough all year, and they also defeated Montreal Machine over the past weekend 15-11. Needless to say, this division is not a one-horse race.

Water Polo Canada would especially like to thank the host clubs from Edmonton, Montreal, Regina, Toronto, Scarborough and Surrey. Water Polo Canada would also like to thank all the volunteers that have helped during our events in February.



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