The Northeast Sled Hockey League‘s 2019 championship tournament, sponsored by Sports4Life, is set to take place Friday, March 8th to Sunday, March 10th at the Rinks at Exeter in Exeter, NH. This is one of our favorite events each year as it brings together many of the northeast’s best sled hockey teams in a season-ending tournament. During this year’s regular season, 17 teams competed in NESHL’s A or B divisions, with the B division split into three regions. Fourteen of those will compete in the playoffs, with the B division split into tiers I and II to make for more competitive games.
In 2018, the Buffalo Sabres and the New York Rangers swept the A Tier I and A Tier II group stages respectively. The Sabres would fall in the final to the hosting Northeast Passage Wildcats while the Rangers would cruise to a 1-0 finals victory over the Philadelphia Flyers. B Tier I teams played in the same brackets as the A II teams and fared well against the high level competition. The New England Warriors placed highest among the B teams, making it to the semifinal round.
Finally, the Columbus Blue Jackets, with one of the longest trips to New Hampshire, came out on top of the B Tier II bracket. The Blue Jackets and the Boston Shamrocks were equally dominant in the group stage with three wins a tie each, but the Shamrocks would fall in the semi-finals to the Western Mass Knights. It will be very exciting to see how these matchups and more come together this year!
In this year’s A division, the Northeast Passage Wildcats look like the favorite, as hosts and defending champions. With the Sabers and Blue Jackets, their toughest competition from last year’s tournament, missing from this year’s A division, another team will have to step up to prevent the Wildcats from repeating! In the B division, the New England Warriors seem to be the team to beat, after being the top finished in the division last year. In tier II of the B division, the Spaulding Shamrocks and Ohio Warriors will face off against junior teams from Northeast Passage and Pittsburgh for the final trophy.
Leading up to this year’s tournament, Athletes Roll was able to follow the New England Warriors and the other Atlantic B teams at monthly game days around the region. Based in Lewiston, Maine, the Warriors stood out vibrantly with their strong play and bright red, white, and blue uniforms. The Warriors are captained by Christy Gardner who is a member of the US Women’s Sled Hockey Team. They’ll kick off the excitement on Friday with a 10:30am matchup vs. the Columbus Blue Jackets North squad!
Once the action is underway, it remains nearly constant through the finals on Sunday. The only break happens on Saturday, as an open skate and a Bruins Alumni Association scrimmage both take up some of the ice time. All in all, the teams will play 30 games of hockey, and three champions will be crowned!
2019 marks the third year Athletes Roll will attend this wonderful event. In 2018, our participation grew to include event coverage and merchandise sales and this year, we’re taking it to the next level. We’ve collaborated with the Northeast Sled Hockey League on the official event shirt, a gray long-sleeve featuring the NESHL logo on the front and Athletes Roll running down the left arm. Proceeds will be split by NESHL and Athletes Roll. They will be sold exclusively at this event, so make sure to stop by!