Outcasts finally capture elusive AIHL Champions Cup
While the third time did not prove to be the proverbial charm, the fourth time did as the Arizona Outcasts finally came home with the American Hockey League’s Elite Division Champions Cup trophy.
It was an epic journey to win it.
“It was a great tourney, and the boys had a great time bringing back some hardware,” Outcasts defenseman Kyle Mooney said. “We came into the tournament knowing we had disappointed ourselves the previous years, so we were fired up to win some games.”
The Outcasts finished runner-up to the Delco Demons in 2016, the New Jersey Alliance in 2017 and the Philadelphia Liberty in 2018.
This year it was time to cash in during the May 17-19 tournament held at the Las Vegas Roller Hockey Center.
The Outcasts, Silicon Valley Quakes and NorCal Revolution joined the defending champion Liberty in this year’s Elite Division field.
The Champions Cup format featured three rounds of competition. The four teams played a round-robin on the first day to seed the best-of-three semifinals that took place the second day. The semifinal winners advanced to play a best-of-three championship series on the third and final day of the tournament.
The Outcasts completed the round-robin phase undefeated with 5-0 victories against the Revolution and Liberty and a 6-1 win over the Quakes.
The Revolution finished second in the round-robin standings, followed by the Liberty and Quakes.
The top-seeded Outcasts defeated the fourth-seeded Quakes in the semifinals, winning by scores of 4-3 in overtime and 6-1, while the Liberty swept the Revolution in two games to advance to the championship series.
The Liberty proved it wasn’t going to relinquish its championship so easily after recording a 4-3 win in Game 1 to put the Outcasts one loss away from elimination and another runner-up finish.
But the Arizona team rallied with 8-5 and 5-2 victories to win its first national championship in the division.
“Knowing we had to sweep to win the cup, we came out with guns blazing in Game 2 and forced a Game 3,” Mooney said. “It was a pretty chippy series against the Liberty. As a lot of players on both teams knew each other from playing pro tournaments throughout the year, there were a lot of emotions and hard battles during the game.
“We got a lead early on and we’ve always played well with a lead, so it only took them to force a couple plays that led to a few more goals for us and handed us the championship win.”
Parker Elliot, the Elite Division’s regular-season and playoff Most Valuable Player, led the Outcasts in tournament scoring with 10 goals and 17 points, followed by Mooney with 16 points, Paul Linder with 15 points and Kevin Mooney with 12 points.
Kyle Mooney and Linder paced the Outcasts with 11 assists.
The Outcasts championship roster also included Alex Dodt, Shin Yamamoto, Alex MacDonald, Trevor Riffey, Taylor Abramson, Tommy Tuohy and goaltender Clay Taylor.
Taylor posted a .908 save percentage while allowing 16 goals in eight games to earn Most Valuable Goaltender honors. He also took home the MVG award during the regular season.
The Outcasts emerged victorious despite facing adversity throughout the tournament.
“Quite a few players were playing through injuries,” Taylor pointed out. “Alex Dodt pulled a muscle in his back in round-robin Game 3. Parker Elliot had to get five stitches above his eye after the first period of round-robin Game 2 as he was checked face first into the dasher boards. Alex MacDonald played through food poisoning in the semifinal series but was unable to play in the final series. I pulled my groin at the end of Game 2 in the finals, but the team played absolutely flawless in Game 3 defensively to overcome all the injuries.”
And finally win the cup.
— Phillip Brents
(July 25, 2019)