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The NCL is Off and Running after 53 Games over 4 days

The 2015-2016 National Championship League (NCL) started quietly two weekends ago when the first 5 games of the season were played across the country; however things ramped up quickly this past weekend as 53 combined games were played in Regina and Dollard. Fully half of the teams competing in the 16U and 19U NCL categories this year were in action this past weekend. With every 19 and under team in the Western Conference gathering in Regina, and every 16 and under team in the Eastern Conference doing likewise in Dollard, these two events served as the initial opportunity for each club to size up their competition for the two national final spots available in each conference.

In the 16U boys’ category, the Dollard Black squad look like they will be tough to beat in the Eastern Conference. Dollard went 5-0 over the weekend and all five games were convincing victories. Dollard has returned many of the key players that saw them win the Eastern Conference Championship last year, and come within one win of the National Title. Jérémie Cote (86 goals), William Chapman (72 goals), and Cameron Ball (55 goals) were all among the top 8 goal scorers in the 16U Eastern Conference last year, with Cote being the conference leader, and all three are back with the team. Combine those three with returning standout goalie James Magliocco and forward Francis Desjardins as well as talented newcomers like Nicholas Serediuc and you have a recipe of a team ready to take that last step towards a National Championship.

In the 16U girls’ category, last year’s Eastern Conference representatives at the National Finals both may be shaping up for a return trip. CAMO and Capital Wave went a combined 7-1 at the Dollard Aquatic Centre with the only loss being CAMO’s 13-7 victory over Capital Wave Sunday evening. CAMO, much like the Dollard boys, will be looking for some redemption this season. After going undefeated throughout the regular season and Eastern Conference playoffs last year, CAMO lost their first game in the National Semi-Final to eventual champion Fraser Valley and headed home with a bronze medal instead of the gold they wanted. The CAMO girls will look to change the story this year but they should expect a tough battle all season. In addition to the strong squad from Capital Wave, the other three teams in the conference, St-Lambert, Mavericks, and Dollard are all formidable squads. The St-Lambert team deserves a special mention for their strong showing in Dollard. Last year, the St-Lambert girls had to wait until the playoffs to notch their first victory. This season they have already tripled that amount. St-Lambert went 3-1 in their four games with their only loss being a tight affair against Capital Wave that was still anyone’s game in the 4th quarter.

Switching over to the Western Conference, the 19U men’s division saw a new contender emerge as the Calgary Wild powered their way to five straight victories and the early lead in the conference standings. It was an especially impressive performance by the Wild as they were able to notch not one, but two victories over perennial 19U powerhouse Pacific Storm. Storm showed they remain a team to be reckoned with despite the losses to Wild, as they were still able to record four victories in Regina. It was only one weekend of games, but based on the first impression, it would be no surprise to see Storm and Wild playing in the 1st vs. 2nd playoff game in Surrey to open the Western Conference Championships in April. The winner of that game is guaranteed a spot in the National Finals which underlines the importance of racking up as many early wins as possible in order to put yourself in position to finish in one of the top two spots.

On the Women’s side, the 19U conference looks like a three horse race between Pacific Storm, Fraser Valley, and Saskatchewan. After missing out on the National Finals last year, Storm and Valley look ready to flip the script and have an all British Columbia delegation at the Finals in Montreal this season. Storm went 4-0, recording two wins each over Edmonton and host Saskatchewan, while Fraser Valley was one quarter away from matching Storm’s feat before a furious comeback from Saskatchewan left them at 3-1 instead. Up 14-10 in the 4th quarter, Fraser Valley had the local girls on the ropes but were unable to quite put them away. One goal, and then another for Saskatchewan, and suddenly the crowd was back in the game. The momentum kept building and suddenly the Saskatchewan shots were finding their way perfectly into the corners. When Adrien Van Dyke buried a breakaway with just over a minute to play, Sask had scored five unanswered and led 15-14. That would turn out to be the final score after on their final possession, two Fraser Valley shots in a row caromed of the crossbar and stayed out. With the win, Saskatchewan finished the weekend 3-3 and while they will have to do some work to catch Pacific Storm and Fraser Valley in the standings, they proved they will be a dangerous team to face in the playoffs. Storm and Valley will have to wait until November 28th to renew their rivalry and test their mettle against one another for the first time this season.

Across the board it was a great weekend of water polo and has set the NCL up for a truly exciting sophomore season.

This week in the NCL

It’s a quiet week in the NCL with only 8 games on the schedule. In the Capital Region, Dollard’s 19U women will see their first action of the season as they head to Gatineau to talk on Capital Wave for a double header on Saturday. Montreal will host the other 6 games including the first 19U Men’s games in the Eastern Conference. The Toronto Golden Jets will kick things on when they visit Dollard and CAMO on Saturday and Sunday. The Capital Wave 16U girls will also head back to Montreal to try and continue their strong start to the season when they take on St-Lambert, CAMO, and Dollard over Saturday and Sunday. Please see the NCL schedule for exact times and locations.



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