Wildcats make history with WCRHL Division II championship
The University of Arizona joined the Western Collegiate Roller Hockey League (WCRHL) during the 2011-12 season, but finished 0-20 competing against its Division I teams.
The Wildcats resized their vision – and returned to compete at the Division II level. They have since found the competition much more satisfying, especially this season after capturing the program’s first WCRHL regional championship title.
Arizona has made the regional tournament each year since the 2012-2013 season and this year was its first regional championship.
The Wildcats finished third in the regular-season standings with an 11-5 record to trail regular-season champion Chico State (13-2-1) and runner-up CSU Fullerton (13-3).
Arizona received the third seed for the six-team WCRHL regional championship tournament, played March 5-6 at The Rinks-Corona Inline in California. The Wildcats won their two pool games over second-seeded Fullerton and fifth-seeded UC San Diego to earn a bye in single-elimination bracket play.
Arizona defeated UC San Diego, a semifinalist at last year’s National Collegiate Roller Hockey Association (NCRHA) national championship tournament, by a score of 4-1 in the semifinals and then defeated Fullerton 4-3 in a rematch in the Division II championship game.
Jesse Rooney and David Santos each had two goals to pace the Wildcats in the championship game.
“I would say our biggest asset to the success of this championship was every player on the team knowing their role,” said Rooney, the division MVP, who led the Wildcats in regular-season scoring with 47 points on 19 goals and 28 assists.
“Having a bench of seven skaters really opened up our eyes this year as penalties were something we struggled with in seasons past. Staying out of the box was one of the most important things we tried to stick to.
“Other than that, we really tried to just play until the game was over, especially in the championship game against CSU Fullerton.”
The history-making season may not be quite over. Arizona, Fullerton, Chico State and UC Irvine (the fourth-place finisher in the regular-season standings) all received bids to compete in the 2016 NCRHA national championship tournament scheduled for April 6-10 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
This year’s Arizona program had three new faces — forwards John Gallo and Ross Woffard and Santos, a defenseman — as well as a familiar face in Matt Duffy, a forward who returned to the university to pursue a Master’s degree.
The Wildcats allowed the fewest goals (36) in the division during regular season play.
“David performed well as a huge scoring threat at regionals,” Rooney noted. “Matt, Ross and John were workhorses at regionals as they battled for possession and made it a goal to get to every loose puck first and to come out of board battles with possession.”
Top-seeded Arizona State Black took home the Division III championship trophy at this year’s WCRHL regional tournament after defeating third-seeded Cal Poly San Luis Obispo 7-2 in the final.
Zach Kenyon (three goals, one assist), Jordan Foret (two goals, one assist) and goaltender Alex DeYoung swept the three star awards in the title game for the top-seeded ASU squad, who finished 15-1 in the regular season.
Foret, who led the division with 31 regular-season goals, earning recognition as the division MVP.
Arizona State advanced to the Division I regional semifinals, but dropped a 2-1 overtime decision to eventual regional champion UNLV.
ASU coach Nick Boyarsky said his Division I squad entered the WCRHL regionals “held together by band-aids and Dayquil.”
“With our top scorer (Ryan Doyle) out with a broken elbow and top offensive defensemen (Nic Spinasanta) nursing a recently separated shoulder, not to mention other health issues on the roster, I felt we still competed extremely well against the other three WCRHL teams with all their guns blazing,” Boyarsky said. “Our regular season record and our OT loss to UNLV in semifinals shows how competitive we will be come nationals when the roster is back to full strength.”
Both Division I and Division III Sun Devil teams received NCRHA bids.
— Phillip Brents