Flashback to 2002 Pacific Cup Finals

by Daryn Goodwin

2002 Pacific Cup Finals were simply amazing

By Phillip Brents

Amazing – in more ways than one – was the only word to describe the 2020 Tour Pacific Cup Finals: Amazing in terms of the breadth the tournament has come to encompass since its inception 10 years ago and amazing in terms of the sheer number of upsets that defined this year’s event.

Just seven years ago, the Pacific Cup Finals, then known as the KOHO California Cup, consisted of nine championship games spread across three dates at the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim prior to regularly scheduled Anaheim Bullfrogs Roller Hockey International games. It was a high point for the then fledgling circuit – showcasing the region’s top amateur roller hockey talent in Southern California’s showcase hockey venue.

Finals were also held at the Great Western Forum as part of preliminaries to L.A. Blades’ RHI games.

The Pacific Cup Finals have since earned their own stand-alone showcase event.

In order to accommodate the 148 teams in 26 subdivisions that competed in the 2002 event, two separate four-day weekends (Friday through Monday) had to be booked at the Anaheim Hockey Club. In eight days of nonstop hockey games, sometimes starting at 7 a.m. and ending past midnight, a total of 272 games were played.

As for parity? Of the 17 regular season champions in their respective divisions, only eight completed the grueling seven-month season with playoff championships.

“Our 10th anniversary season was our biggest ever -- both in terms of the regular season and the 2002 Finals,” tournament co-director John Black said. “When you look at how many close games there were you can see that the tiered system of competition is working very well.”

Championship play was conducted June 21-24 for AAA Tier and Club Tier teams. Finals were held for AA Tier teams June 28 to July 1 during which the tournament series’ newest age division, the Cub Division, was showcased.

What the 2002 Finals showed was that no matter now many tournaments and how many standings points teams had accumulated throughout the regular season, no one was safe from early elimination. The trend toward parity – as demonstrated by the tournament series’ tiered format -- could easily been seen in action as one ventured down the Tour Pacific Cup’s food chain.

Of the seven AAA Tier finals, four teams – the Nexed OC Blades (Atom), Anaheim Mission Bulldogs (Squirt), Nexed OC Blades 87 (Pee Wee) and Nexed OC Blades (Bantam) – upheld their first-place regular season finishes with playoff titles. In the other three age divisions, championships were claimed by a team that had finished in third-place in the regular season standings (Anaheim Mission Bulldogs, Mite Division), a fourth-place team (Pama Cyclones, Division I) and a fifth-place team (Anaheim Mission Bulldogs, Junior Division).

Only three of the six top finishers in the AA Tier walked off the court with championship medals: Team Excalibur (Atom), CPH Quest (Mite Elite) and Las Vegas Patriots (Junior Select).The other three championship titles went to teams that had finished second (ProJoy Roadrunners, Bantam AA), third (Excalibur Black, Squirt Elite) and sixth (NorCal Extreme, Pee Wee Elite) in the regular season standings.

In the four Club Tier divisions on display at the Anaheim Hockey Club, only one team – the Young Guns in the Mite Elite division – managed to duplicate its top-regular season standing. Upsets were especially rife with championships going to teams that had finished third (Dynamo Red, Pee Wee Elite), seventh (Las Vegas Titans Black, Atom) and 14th (the Edge, Squirt Elite) in the regular season division standings.

Overall, four regular season champions lost their first playoff game and four more exited the championship playoffs in the next round. One highly touted regular season points leader never even made it to the six-deep playoff round – so intensely competitive was this year’s tournament.

In a trend started last year, 16 of the 26 championship games were decided by two goals or less (62 percent), including eight one-goal matchups and four overtime contests. Of 44 pre-championship round playoff games, 27 (61 percent) were decided by two goals or less.

“John Patton (the Pacific Cup operations director) told me that he has had more phone messages than ever telling us what a great season everyone had and how tremendous the Finals were,” Black said.

“I was really impressed how the leveling got teams into the right groups that allowed so many games to be so close and get the emotion and spirit of competition for games that are won or lost by one goal in the final minutes,” NorCal Mavericks program director Gregg Smith said.

Title game matchups in the showcase AAA Tier included familiar opponents. The Nexed OC Blades (six finalists) and Anaheim Mission Bulldogs (four finalists) each finished with three AAA Tier champions while new kid on the block CPH registered a watershed showing among the region’s traditional superpowers with two finalists and one champion.

In showcase AAA Tier finals matchups, second-seeded CPH defeated the top-seeded Nexed OC Blades, 6-1, in the Cub Division; the second-seeded Nexed OC Blades shut out the top-seeded Anaheim Mission Bulldogs, 3-0, to win the Atom Division; the top-seeded Anaheim Mission Bulldogs rolled past the second-seeded CPH Velocity 91s, 8-3, in the Mite Division; the second-seeded Anaheim Mission Bulldogs 89 edged the Nexed OC Blades Black, 2-1, in the Squirt Division; the second-seeded Nexed OC Blades 87 trimmed the top-seeded Nexed OC Blades 88 by a 4-1 score in the Pee Wee Division; the top-seeded Nexed OC Blades skated past second-seeded Red Army, 4-2, in the Bantam Division; the third-seeded Anaheim Mission Bulldogs shut out the top-seeded Pama Cyclones, 4-0, in the Junior Division; and the top-seeded Pama Cyclones slipped past the second-seeded Tour Predators, 5-4, in Division 1 play.

In the eight AAA Tier divisions (including the Cub Division), five higher-seeded teams (based on bracket play) tasted defeat in championship games.

The expansive AA Tier was broken down into 11 subdivisions (Elite and Select) for the Pacific Cup Finals. Following seeding from preliminary play, four higher-seeded teams tasted defeat in championship contests.

The third-seeded Team Excalibur defeated the fifth-seeded Brea Oilers, 5-3, for the Atom AA title; the top-seeded CPH Quest edged the third-seeded Nike Rinkside Rockets, 4-3, for the Mite AA Elite gold medal; the sixth-seeded NorCal Dragons defeated the fifth-seeded Nexed OC Blades, 4-3, for the Mite AA Select title; top-seeded Excalibur Black topped the second-seeded Las Vegas Tour Rebels, 4-3, for the Squirt AA Elite title; the top-seeded Nike Rinkside Rockets blanked the second-seeded Tour Corona Devils, 4-0, to win the Squirt AA Select title; the fourth-seeded NorCal Extreme bested second-seeded LaVerne 88 by a 2-1 score to capture the Pee Wee AA Elite title; the top-seeded ProJoy Mission Gulls defeated the second-seeded Silicon Valley Quakes, 3-2, in overtime for the Pee Wee AA Select title; the top-seeded ProJoy Roadrunners shut out the second-seeded CCSA Rage, 5-0, for the Bantam AA Elite title; the second-seeded NorCal Rebels skated past top-seeded Team Anarchy, 4-2, to grab the Bantam AA Select title; the top-seeded Castle Stars edged the San Diego Misfits, 5-4, in overtime to claim the Junior AA Elite title; and the seventh-seeded Las Vegas Patriots defeated fifth-seeded Team Hyper, 6-4, to win the Junior AA Select title.

Particularly noteworthy was the runner-up finish of Team Anarchy in the Bantam AA Select Division. The team’s practice facility – the La Mesa Sports Center closed down its roller hockey operations more than a month prior to the Finals, leaving the San Diego County-based team without a suitable place to tune up for the Anaheim Hockey Club tournament.

The Anarchy finished the regular season ranked 16th in the 32-team deep AA Tier standings and third among teams in its Bantam AA Tier Select subdivision. However, Team Anarchy went undefeated in its three pool games to earn the top seed in the playoffs before falling to the second-seeded NorCal Rebels (ranked 15th in the regular season standings).

“That tournament we played great ...We played better than we did all season," Team Anarchy’s Jon Oberg noted with an air of satisfaction in his voice.

In the Junior AA Elite Division, the Castle Stars finished the regular season ranked sixth in the standings while the San Diego Misfits were ranked 11th.

Parity ruled the court in the seven Club Tier subdivisions. The top-seeded Las Vegas Titans Black defeated second-seeded Raw Steel 94 by a 4-3 score for the Atom title; the top-seeded Young Guns topped the second-seeded Tour Corona Edge Blue, 7-2, for the Mite Elite title; the top-seeded Labeda Force edged the second-seeded Las Vegas Titans, 5-4, for the Mite Select title; the fifth-seeded Edge captured the Squirt Elite title with an 8-5 win against third-seeded CPH Ballistic; the second-seeded Las Vegas Titans upset the top-seeded Chula Vista Hawks, 3-2, in overtime to win the Squirt Select title; third-seeded Dynamo Red edged the eighth-seeded CPH Chaos, 3-2, in overtime for the Pee Wee Elite title; and the top-seeded Las Vegas Titans shut out the third-seeded ProJoy Mission Gulls, 5-0, to finish as Pee Wee Select champions.

Particularly stinging upsets were delivered against the ProJoy Scorpions in the Mite Club Elite and Pee Wee Club Elite divisions. In the older division, the Scorpions had finished atop the 26-team division with 54.5 points yet were eliminated 2-0 in their first playoff game by the CPH Chaos which had finished tied for fifth place in the regular season standings. In the younger age division, the Scorpions (after finishing third best among the division’s 24 teams in regular season play) lost a 2-1 overtime contest to Team Madness.

The Edge (in the Squirt Club Elite Division) and the Chaos (in the Pee Wee Club Elite Division) were easily the Cinderella teams in the Club Tier finals.

The Edge finished 14th deep in the regular season division standings but eliminated the fourth-seeded Double Trouble (ranked No. 1 in the 22-team division in the regular season) and the top-seeded NorCal Extreme on the way to its championship.

The Chaos, ranked fifth out of 26 teams in the regular season, ousted the top-seeded Hyper Hurricanes in the quarterfinals after eliminating the regular season leaders in the previous playoff round. The Chaos continued its assault on the division heavyweights by sending second-seeded Team TSA home in the semifinals. The Chaos ended its upset run only after an overtime loss in the championship game.

The Tour Pacific Cup Finals served as an official qualifier to the 2002 NARCh Finals at the eXcel Energy Center, home of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild.

Tour Pacific Cup Finals

June 21-July 1, 2002 at Anaheim Hockey Club

AAA Tier

Cub Division

Championship: (2) CPH 6, (1) Nexed OC Blades 1 

Atom AAA Division

Championship: (2) Nexed OC Blades 3, (1) Anaheim Mission Bulldogs 0

Mite AAA Division

Championship: (1) Anaheim Mission Bulldogs 8, (2) CPH Velocity 3

Playoff: (2) CPH Velocity 5, (3) OC Blades Black 0

Squirt AAA Division

Championship: (2) Anaheim Mission Bulldogs 89 2, (1) Nexed OC Blades Black 1

Pee Wee AAA Division

Championship: (2) Nexed OC Blades 87 4, (1) Nexed OC Blades 88 1

Bantam AAA Division

Championship: (1) Nexed OC Blades 4, (2) Red Army 2

Junior AAA Division

Championship: Anaheim Mission Bulldogs 4, (1) Pama Cyclones 0

Semifinals: (1) Pama Cyclones 10, (4) Rollin Ice Patriots 3; Anaheim Mission Bulldogs 7, (2) Tour Gretzky Predators 1

Division I

Championship: (1) Pama Cyclones 5,. (2) Tour Predators 4

Playoff: (2) Tour Predators 3, (3) Rollin Ice Patriots 2

Note: Four of seven regular season division standings leaders win TPC Finals titles.

AA Tier

Atom AA Division

Championship: (3) Team Excalibur 5, (5) Brea Oilers 3

Playoff: (5) Brea Oilers 5, (4) Scorpions 3

Mite AA Elite Division

Championship: (1) CPH Quest 4, (3) Nike Rinkside Rockets 3

Semifinals: (1) CPH Quest 5, (4) Rollin Ice Patriots 1; (3) Nike Rinkside Rockets 5, (2) Tour Corona Edge Black 3

Mite AA Select Division

Championship: (6) NorCal Dragons 4, (5) Nexed OC Blades 3

Semifinals: (5) Nexed OC Blades Red 4, (8) Brea Oilers 3; (6) NorCal Dragons 5, (7) Las Vegas Tour Rebels Red 2

Playoff: (8) Brea Oilers 7, (9) Excalibur Black 5

Squirt AA Elite Division

Championship: (1) Excalibur Black 4, (2) Las Vegas Tour Rebels 3

Semifinals: (1) Excalibur Black 7, (6) Nexed OC Blades Red 3; (2) Las Vegas Tour Rebels 3, (5) VC Vipers 1;

Playoffs: (2) Las Vegas Tour Rebels 6, (7) Silicon Valley Quakes 2; (6) Nexed OC Blades Red 3, (3) Brea Oilers 2; (5) VC Vipers 6, (4) Tour Upland Edge 0

Squirt AA Select Division

Championship: (1) Nike Rinkside Rockets 4, (2) Tour Corona Devils 0

Pee Wee AA Elite Division

Championship: (4) NorCal Extreme 2, (2) LaVerne 88 1

Semifinals: (4) NorCal Extreme 3, (1) Irvine Raiders 1; (2) LaVerne 88 2, (3) Rollin Ice Patriots 0

Playoff: (4) NorCal Extreme 3, (5) LaVerne Empire 88 Black 1

Pee Wee AA Select Division

Championship: (1) ProJoy Mission Gulls 3, (2) Silicon Valley Quakes 2/OT

Bantam AA Elite Division

Championship: (1) ProJoy Roadrunners 5, (2) CCSA Rage 0

Semifinals: (2) CCSA Rage 5, (5) Rollin Ice Patriots 2; (1) ProJoy Roadrunners 4, (6) Tour Corona Edge 2

Playoffs: (6) Tour Corona Edge 4, (3) Las Vegas Rebels 2; (5) Rollin Ice Patriots 4, (4) ProJoy Mission Gulls 3

Bantam AA Select Division

Championship: (2) NorCal Rebels 4, (1) Team Anarchy 2

Junior AA Elite Division

Championship: (1) Castle Stars 5, (2) San Diego Misfits 4/OT

Semifinals: (1) Castle Stars 3, (4) CPH Black 2; (2) San Diego Misfits 4, (3) ProJoy Mission Gulls 3

Junior AA Select Division

Championship: (7) Las Vegas Patriots 6, (5) Team Hyper 4

Semifinals: (5) Team Hyper 5, (8) CCM Red Army 1; (7) Las Vegas Patriots 4, (6) ProJoy Roadrunners 3

Note: Three of six regular season division standings leaders win TPC Finals titles.

Club Tier

Atom Club

Championship: (1) Las Vegas Titans Black 4, (2) Raw Steel 94 3

Mite Club Elite Division

Championship: (1) Young Guns 7, (2) Tour Corona Edge Blue 2

Semifinals: (1) Young Guns 5, (5) LaVerne Empire 2; (2) Tour Corona Edge Blue 5, (3) Team Madness 4

Playoffs: (2) Tour Corona Edge 6, (7) Team Excalibur Silver 3; (3) Team Madness 2, (6) ProJoy Scorpions 1/OT; (5) LaVerne Empire 8, (4) Casey’s Crushers 1

Mite Club Select Division

Championship: (1) Labeda Force 5, (2) Las Vegas Titans 4

Playoff: (2) Las Vegas Titans 4, (3) NorCal Extreme 3

Squirt Club Elite Division

Championship: (5) Edge 8, (3) CPH Ballistic 5

Semifinal: (5) Edge 6, (1) NorCal Extreme 2; (3) CPH Ballistic 3, (2) Eclipse 2/OT

Playoff: (5) Edge 3, (4) Double Trouble 2

Squirt Club Select Division

Championship: (2) Las Vegas Titans 3, (1) Chula Vista Hawks 2/OT

Playoff: (2) Las Vegas Titans 3, (3) Team Madness 1

Pee Wee Club Elite Division

Championship: (3) Dynamo Red 3, (8) CPH Chaos 2/OT

Semifinal: (8) CPH Chaos 6, (2) Team TSA 5; (3) Dynamo Red 3, Las Vegas Tour Rebels 1

Quarterfinal: (8) CPH Chaos 6, (1) Hyper Hurricanes 3; (2) Team TSA 4, (7) Casey’s Crushers 3; (3) Dynamo Red 4, (6) Team Madness 3; (4) Las Vegas Tour Rebels 5, (5) Tour Corona Edge 88 1

Playoff: (8) CPH Chaos 2, (9) ProJoy Scorpions 0

Pee Wee Club Select

Championship: 1) Las Vegas Titans 5, (3) ProJoy Mission Gulls 0

Playoff: (3) ProJoy Mission Gulls 3, (2) Team Excalibur 1

Note: One of four regular season division standings leaders win TPC Finals titles.