Teams had no problems making statements this weekend in North Carolina. And if you thought it would stop there...you're wrong! Many of these teams that came to XL Sports World in Apex were teams that will be making the trip to Kalamazoo in June and they weren't afraid to show everyone why!!
Let me start in the atom division where the Storm Troopers will be a force to be reckoned with! This team outscored their opponents 33-2 over their four round robin games combined. The playoffs weren't much closer...message sent and received! Again, as I always stress, though, it is a regional and the teams that took the lickin' have to keep on tickin' because regional QUALIFIERS are just to see where you belong when the big tournament is here in June. Raleigh Speed and the Winchester Warriors are two amazing organizations. They qualified for single 'A' at nationals so it would not be fair to compare them to the Storm Troopers, as the troopers will be in AAA this summer.
In the mite division the 'Troopers' took that division by 'Storm' again (see what I did there?). It was another division where the organization had a goal differential of over 30 as they continued their domination.
The squirt division saw the Carolina Force get by the Raleigh Speed Black team! As the divisions got older the competition became even stronger. There wasn't much separation in the squirt division and this division could have been one of those where it was kept as one division instead of splitting off for the playoffs. But the game has changed a little from when I first got into it. Regional qualifiers are no longer just to qualify your team. Everyone walks away with something. As a tournament director, I get it. As a coach of older teams, I don't! I get the fact that every child shouldn't walk away empty handed but it's a debate you may have to catch on TORHS2HOT TV this summer. Many tournament series (us included) have now set a precedent that we cannot go back on when it comes to splitting these divisions. There are divisions where it works tremendously because there is such a disparity in the competition level that it NEEDS to be done. But a division like this one, could have been kept as one. The only problem is, you don't really know the makeup of the teams coming into the event. It's an interesting topic of discussion.
The peewee division was extremely entertaining and competitive. But the name to remember this summer is Verbero Arsenal. This team is going to be a tough out against ANYONE this summer. The speed and skill they possess is threatening and every team found that out this past weekend. In the picture for this story, you see Dave Thomas and his assistant coach going over strategy before the championship game where they would end up on the wrong side of the score but they didn't go down without a fight as the Bandits 2001 team would lose to the Arsenal 3-1 (with an empty netter).
In bantam, the 2000 Dragons and NC Mission Sting would do battle in the championship. The game was an extremely heated battle which had everyone completely involved. The game got away from the Sting early, but they battled back midway thru the second period before the Dragons pulled away. This division was one where we did not break it into tiers and the competition was better for it. The Carolina Force 99 team pulled an upset beating the NC Mission Sting which gave the Force the inside track to make the playoffs. The division as a whole was exciting to watch, especially when you get to see Jay Kromenhoek on the bench with Jerry Fecteau for the Sting. There is never a boring moment with one of them on the bench let alone BOTH!
All in all the weekend was phenomenal. I went thru a period of depression when the staff had a chance to go to Dave and Busters on Friday night and I put up an amazing score of 80 points in the basketball game. I was HOT. I was hitting everything, and then I look over and Joe Bertaccini had 82. I was furious! Then I saw Dave McNeil's 33 and had to realize "it could be worse." McNeil couldn't catch a McBreak when it came to winning games at Dave and Busters. He was truly a McLoser for most of the time and we had to console him with a McCocktail!! Ok Ok... I'm done.
Again, as I said before it was truly awesome to be back in NC with a great tournament weekend. The new ownership at XL Sports World is truly on the right path with great ideas in mind and they are working closely with the Raleigh Speed and that in and of itself is a win-win for all involved! Next up for TORHS2Hot4Ice is Pittsburgh and Florida. Schedules will be posted soon so keep an eye out and if you want in on Ontario (May 13-15) please register ASAP. But until next time, I'm signing off!!
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