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NCL Weekly Notes: April 20 to 26, 2015

National Championship League Schedule and Results
7 of 8 National Finals berths determined after NCL crossover in Calgary. Final spot for 19U Men will come down to the wire.

The first ever NCL crossover was held in Calgary this week as the 20 teams that make up the 19U men’s and women’s age categories in Canada gathered at the Talisman centre for 52 games over 4 days. For many teams, the crossover was the chance to finally lock up a National Finals berth after a lengthy six month regular season.

In the women’s division, the finals berths were locked up rather quickly. CAMO and Dollard have been the class of the eastern conference all year and strong opening performances by both teams were enough to put them out of reach of third place Golden Horseshoe. In the west, St-Lambert was able to get their first point of the season by tying Pacific Storm, which was enough to clinch Saskatchewan’s ticket to the finals.
That game appeared of little importance at the time because it looked like Saskatchewan would finish well ahead of 3rd place Pacific Storm in the standings, but Storm would roll off 3 consecutive victories after that tie, including wins over both Dollard and CAMO. The win against CAMO was CAMO’s first loss since their first game of the year, ending their 15 game unbeaten streak. Saskatchewan meanwhile, would go on to lose their first three games before tying St-Lambert in their last game. In the end, Saskatchewan finished just one point ahead of Pacific Storm in the final standings. One can wonder if Saskatchewan had simply played relaxed knowing that they were already qualified, but Storm will still rue that tie against St-Lambert in the opening game, as one more goal and the victory would have been enough to qualify for the Finals and cap an incredible comeback run.

Saskatchewan and the Calgary Renegades will certainly prove to be tough opponents at the finals, but it would be fair to say that both CAMO and Dollard are okay with Storm not qualifying.

On the Men’s side, Pacific Storm and St-Lambert have dominated their respective conferences all year, and it was just a matter of time until they both clinched first place. For many fans, the most anticipated game of the weekend was the Storm – St-Lambert matchup as many viewed it as the likely gold medal game at Nationals. Played in the cozy East Training Pool, the atmosphere was electric as St-Lambert and Storm traded goals throughout the 1st and 2nd quarters.
One of Storm’s traits this year has been taking a close game and going on a big run to put their opposition away in a matter of minutes. That would prove to be the case once again. With a one goal lead early in the 3rd quarter, Storm reeled off three straight goals in less than 2 minutes to open their lead to four. At the same time as their offensive started rolling, Storm put the clamps on St-Lambert defensively and St-Lambert could only muster one goal in the first 14 minutes of the 2nd half. The Storm defenders simply gave their opponents no space and pushed them farther and farther away from the net. On the rare occasions St-Lambert did get close to the net, Marko Jovanovic was there to make the stop. That defensive ability coupled with the goal scoring and play making prowess of team leaders Gaelan Patterson, Mark Spooner, and phenom Reuel D’Souza explain why Storm are the clear favourites to win gold.

With the Torpedoes having clinched the host spot for Nationals previously in the year, the only remaining berth up for grabs was the spot that goes to the 2nd place team in the Eastern Conference. Dollard, Mavericks, and the Ottawa Titans have been battling all year for that spot and all three hoped to go into the crossover and put some ground between themselves and the others. In the end however, the teams are almost closer after the crossover then before.

Dollard had a fantastic weekend, going undefeated at 5-1-0, which included becoming just the 2nd team all year to hold undefeated Storm to a tie. Dollard hoped a performance like that would put them in the drivers’ seat for Nationals, but unfortunately for them, the Titans had nearly just as impressive of a weekend at 5-0-1 while Mavericks also performed strongly going 4-0-2. The standings after the crossover have Ottawa leading with 47 points from 24 games, Dollard just behind with 44 points from 24 games and then Mavericks with 40 points but two games in hand.
All three teams still have a chance to qualify as the last weekend of the season has the Mavericks and the Toronto Golden Jets making a road trip through Ottawa and Montreal.

Titans have the simplest path to qualifying. If Ottawa beats both the Mavericks and Golden Jets, they will qualify. If Dollard wants to qualify, they need to at least tie Ottawa in points, as they own the tiebreaker. Dollard could qualify if they beat Mavericks and the Golden Jets and have Ottawa tie or lose one of their games, or if they win one of their games and Ottawa loses both, or if they tie one of their games and win the other while Ottawa goes 0-1-1 in their games.

The Mavericks, like Ottawa, also control their own fate, as they will play 4 games in 3 days, including one against each of the teams they are chasing. If Mavericks go 4-0, they will qualify. They can also qualify with three wins and a tie or loss but those scenarios would require Titans or Dollard to lose or tie to the Golden Jets, which is unlikely. Either way, the season is likely to come down to the final game of the year, when the Mavericks and Titans battle in Ottawa on Sunday, May 10th.
After a 26 game regular season stretching back to November, there’s not much more you can ask for than that.



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