PAMA Pro Preview by RollerDad News
State Wars Hockey: PAMA Pro Invitational #8: Team Preview
Presented by RollerDad News Written by Kevin Dwyer
The end of July has reached us all once again, and for roller hockey players far and wide, that can only mean one thing; the last tournament of the summer circuit is upon us, the last chance at earning a gold medal for this year’s hard work is NOW.
In the future I would like to speak more fluently on the youth teams, players, and programs that participate at each event on a year-round basis. Currently, that is not my forte, so I will not attempt to make that true or cater to that demographic. I’d rather share my insight on a division that I know and love, a pool of teams and players that aspiring roller hockey players, parents of players, older veterans of the sport, can all enjoy rallying around: these are the players and teams participating in the 8th annual PAMA Pro Invitational, the most competitive and sought-after Pro Division tournament the sport has to offer in the United States.
This year’s event takes place in Taylor, Michigan. Detroit, where many phenomenal hockey players call home, is a hotbed of inline AND ice hockey, which helps the inline realm of the sport immensely. This year in Detroit has a lot of meaning and emotion. A pillar of the Detroit hockey community, Matt Koleski, was taken from us all much too soon, and very abruptly last summer. Truly cherished by all that worked with him, all that came through the doors of Joe Dumars Fieldhouse, and his beloved family members, Matt was a guy everyone had a story about, and always in good light. It is very fitting and honorable that State Wars chose Detroit as the host city for their 18th consecutive National event.
In this installment, I aim to inform everyone of EACH team that is competing in the PAMA Pro Invitational, albeit new teams, or weathered and seasoned squads, I will start from the end of the pack and work my way through last year’s standings, to the reigning champions.
Labeda Shakers #13
My first experience with this team was 2019 in good ol’ Fort Wayne, Indiana. The Shakers have a unique logo that acknowledges who they are. Flying home from Barcelona, Spain in 2019 after the World Roller Games, a handful of players from the Men’s National Czechia team were on that flight, along with a couple players from the Men’s National Spain team. The Shakers combine a handful of players from the United States along with most of their players coming over from Europe to compete. The Shakers were able to come to the States and compete in a few events this summer due to the hosting of the World Games being played in Birmingham, Alabama a little over a two weeks ago. In recent development however, they will be shorthanded to an extent on the global scale. Martin Fiala, a household name for roller players even in the states (Czechia), had an injury that required him to forego competing at the PAMA Pro invitational. With a big part of their offense missing, the Shakers will look for some secondary scoring throughout the roster. The Shakers were able to muster a 1-2-1 record at NARCh in Irvine just a week ago, with the help of Canadian Defenseman Brendan Baumgartner, who will also not be wearing a Labeda Shakers uniform this weekend. In summation, new team manager Anth Merrigan and this potential rag-tag team will have a very uphill road to climb to make any noise and summon anything better than a 1-2-1 record, especially given their round robin schedule.
Game 1: Champion Unify Black Ice (Friday, July 22nd 2:50 PM EST)
Game 2: Detroit MK Bordercats (Friday, July 22nd 10:20 PM EST)
Game 3: Tour Road Runners (Saturday, July 23rd 1:40 PM EST)
Game 4: PAMA Labeda Golden Knights (Saturday, July 23rd 6:00 PM EST)
Players to watch: Jakub Bernard, Josafat Piraquive
Labeda Blood & Feathers #12
I believe dating back to last Fall, transitioning into the Winter, I came across an Instagram post about a program, known as the team, referred to above. I’ll tell you what, regardless of who you are or how long you’ve been in the sport, the name “Blood & Feathers” MUST raise your eyebrows. I was fortunate enough to see this team play in Colorado at the NARCh qualifier over Memorial Day weekend in Parker, Colorado. Blood & Feathers brought out two Men’s division teams to this event. Prior to the first games starting for the tournament in which I was helping Daryn run that weekend, I was approached by a player in their ranks named Kevin (forgive me for not remembering the last name). They had set something up with Daryn as well as the company that created SuperDeker, to shoot a video on the rink prior to the start of the tournament games. Well, SuperDeker was late, and they needed to get the video done with about twenty minutes before puck drop. I had conflicting feelings. On one hand, its great to get new sponsors in our sport. On the other, tournaments need to start on time, regardless of external circumstances. These guys were awesome, they got the video done, and even shot some clips throughout the Parker Fieldhouse throughout the weekend that got some of the younger players involved. All said, this was a group of players (albeit two from Colorado I’m familiar with), that I’d never seen play. We had gotten the best of their lower/second team in our first round robin game. We would later meet in the Gold division championship where Blood & Feathers came out victorious with a 2-1 decision. In similar fashion, Team COL led by Ryan Wass-Tursick bested the upper Blood & Feathers squad RATHER handedly in round robin, with a 7-2 outcome. Blood & Feathers would have the last laugh, by beating Team COL 4-0 in the Platinum final. I do know for a fact that Wass-Tursick will be playing with this group in Taylor this weekend. Wass-Tursick brings vision and size to a very skilled set of hands on his makeup, which will help Blood & Feathers, as they will look to improve on their 0-4 outing in Tampa Bay at TORHS Nationals earlier this summer in Tampa Bay, Florida. They as well have a long road to climb, being a new team on the PAMA Pro scene.
Game 1: Konixx (Friday, July 22nd 7:05 PM EST)
Game 2: Skittles (Friday, July 22nd 11:30 PM EST)
Game 3: Carshield (Saturday, July 23rd 12:35 PM EST)
Game 4: Mission Labeda Snipers (Saturday, July 23rd 4:55 PM EST)
Players to watch: Ryan Marker, Eddie Dahdah
Do not let the name or the perceived age of this group fool you. They have been building this program the CORRECT way for the last three to four years. With a highly touted bench boss in Shane Arsenal (just an intimidating name to begin with), this hybrid group of players from primarily California and Canada has been competing together in the Junior and D1 divisions on a consistent basis (I remember another team doing that by the name of Black Ice…), making the jump to the Pro division last year for the first time on the National scene at TORHS, where they gave the Road Runners a “run” for their money in the first round of playoffs. They continued that momentum with NARCh last summer, falling short in the quarters as well to the Silver Knights. This group has played in both the mentioned tournaments this summer of ’22. Led by Dylan Abbamont, a native of Ontario, the Skittles group brings speed, skill, and a little bit of grit to the table in this PAMA Pro division, and they do not intend on being phased as newcomers, as they’ve been chomping at the bit for the last couple of years. One of the X-Factors for this team who is FINALLY receiving recognition at the Pro level is their backbone, Charlie Robinson. Not quite the eccentricities of Dominik Hasek, but still providing the jaw dropping abilities of robbing players blind, Robinson has really come into his own, and gives the group in front of him a ton of confidence. His saves are timely, meaningful, and momentum changers, ALL things needed to compete in this division. Being young brings energy and hunger, and that is what you can expect to see from this group. They may turn more heads and surprise more teams than expected. A team that is never out of a game, and plays the sport to its core, with patience, opportunistic tallies, and smart play. They are one of the new squads that I believe have a chance of making that top eight grouping with stellar play from Robinson and contributions from up and down the lineup.
Game 1: Mission Labeda Snipers (Friday, July 22nd 11:25 AM EST)
Game 2: Labeda Blood & Feathers Friday, July 22nd 11:30 PM EST)
Game 3: Konixx (Saturday, July 23rd 3:50 PM EST)
Game 4: Carshield (Saturday, July 23rd 9:15 PM EST)
Players to watch: Charlie Robinson, Dylan Abbamont, Jaden Guzman
Envious Wings #10
A very interesting story this Envious Wings team is. Led by the Bennett brothers that were mainstays on the Tour Road Runners the past couple of summers, this group of players is primarily from Buffalo. Many (or few) may remember the Nike Buffalo Wings coached by none other than Downtown George Brown dating back to 2005, this team has taken on that persona of a chip on their shoulder and looking to make some noise as a new team in the event. Although going 1-3 at TORHS earlier in the summer, they are given the bid to the dance due to winning the Summer Slam Play-In tournament hosted by State Wars to qualify teams for the PAMA Pro division on Long Island earlier in the summer. This team boasts some veterans of the sport, such as the likes of a guy that was one of the top three goalies in the game in Brett Leggat, along with longtime player Chris Kendall. This complete roster has players that have all participated in this event in past years. They are a high-flying offensive team, but if they can take care of their own end mixed with timely saves from Leggat, a 2-2 finish is not out of the realm of possibilities.
Game 1: Marsblade (Friday, July 22nd 12:30 PM EST)
Game 2: Rink Rat (Friday, July 22nd 8:15 PM EST)
Game 3: PAMA Labeda Golden Knights (Saturday, July 23rd 9:20 AM EST)
Game 4: Tour Road Runners (Saturday, July 23rd 10:20 PM EST)
Players to watch: Blake Bennett, Nolan Sheeran, Scott Charbonneau
Detroit MK Bordercats #9
It has been a couple of years since we have seen a Bordercats team put together to compete in the PAMA Pro Invitational, dating back to 2019. A handful of their players have been competing the last couple of years with different squads. A couple other names on their roster are names I have not seen in a while, such as Brandon Dare and Ryan Lemke. Playing in their backyard, the Bordercats will look to compete in front of an energized home crowd. Bordercats speak true to their name, as they do boast a couple of Canadian players in Brandon Glover and Brendan Baumgartner. No bigger return to their lineup than mainstay and hometown hero Ryan Kish. Taking on a venture with Black Ice, Kish manned their defensive core for the last couple of years. He is now back in with the Bordercats and looking to make an impact. In the past, the Bordercats have had Jacob Robinson and Jason Strauss between the pipes. This year, they load that responsibility onto Daniel Collins and Ev Bommarito. The thing to look for with this group is how quickly they will be able to gel after having a couple of years off from competing together. They have all the motivation in the world, and playing in front of the home crowd, they will look to return to the top 8 seeds where they left off back in 2019.
Game 1: Tour Road Runners (Friday, July 22nd 3:50 PM EST)
Game 2: Labeda Shakers (Friday, July 22nd 10:20 PM EST)
Game 3: Champion Unify Black Ice (Saturday, July 23rd 2:45 PM EST)
Game 4: Marsblade (Saturday, July 23rd 7:05 PM)
Players to watch: Ryan Lemke, Brandon Glover, Kyle Soper
Rink Rat #8
Dan Maxwell and company are ways away from their Championship run in 2018, besting Black Ice in the final that year. Led by elder statesmen Gerry Osterkamp and Juaquin Chavira and backstopped by ASU and Canadian standout Lane Hartwell, Rink Rat is a pesky team that can make games hard on opposing squads. With veteran leadership on the floor and behind the bench, they look for scoring contributions from Hayden Maxwell, Marvin Simmons, and Sam Eisenhower. Squeaking into the playoffs at NARCh last weekend, they will look to put forth a better effort in attempts of getting another top 8 seed to continue their streak of earning an invite to the Invitational. Even with a playoff bid from last year’s event, Rink Rat will have to go to war every game to claw their way into the top 8 once again. Three of their four round robin games are against potential semi-finalists, and they will need to muster at least two wins to make it out of round robin.
Game 1: PAMA Labeda Golden Knights (Friday, July 22nd 1:45 PM EST)
Game 2: Envious Wings (Friday, July 22nd 8:15 PM EST)
Game 3: Marsblade (Saturday, July 23rd 10:25 AM EST)
Game 4: Champion Unify Black Ice (Saturday, July 23rd 8:10 PM EST)
Players to watch: Cole Sonsile, Sam Eisenhower, Mason Pilkington
This team’s identity in the past has been steadfast manning up defensively, low scoring games, and blocking a lot of shots. 2021 brought a little bit of a facelift for this group, with the likes of Brendan Baumgartner, Brandon Glover, Chris Rauckman, and Jared Gerger. These four provided a heavy need for offensive capabilities, and they certainly delivered. Making the playoffs last year, and losing in the quarter finals to eventual winner in the Mission Labeda Snipers, this team is without the aforementioned players above at the ’22 Invitational. They will be looking to veteran players Kyle Phelps, Eric Purcell, and Alex MacDonald to provide more of an offensive spark. Konixx was also fortunate to pick up the one and only CJ Yoder. Two years ago in Indiana, Yoder led the Tour Mudcats to the semi-finals with stellar play, having 6 points in the round robin. Konixx will look to have that kind of contribution this year, as Yoder can still play with the best of them. Games featuring Konixx will show a lot of patience, attempt at slowing the game down, and shot blocking. The boys love eating pucks. A great group of guys I am fortunate enough to play behind.
Game 1: Carshield (Friday, July 22nd 10:20 AM EST)
Game 2: Labeda Blood & Feathers (Friday, July 22nd 7:05 PM EST)
Game 3: Mission Labeda Snipers (Saturday, July 23rd 11:30 AM EST)
Game 4: Skittles (Saturday, July 23rd 3:50 PM EST)
Players to watch: Eddie Matsushima, Gage Clark, Matt Herder
Cody Kettler and I were speaking last week regarding the way their tournament came to an end at last year’s Invitational. They held a 2-0 lead over the PAMA Labeda Golden Knights for most of their quarterfinal game. In the last eight minutes, the wheels came off the track. PAMA would come storming back, routing Marsblade in a 5-3 decision to move on to the semi-finals. It was quite a scene in St. Louis last year whenever Marsblade took the floor. People from every other rink than the main one would make their way to the Marsblade game to see hometown hero Pat Maroon lace them up and put some wheels under him. They will be without the Big Rig this year, although their roster is still one of the most competitive in this field of play. Although Kavan Johnson did a very admirable job for Marsblade last summer, they have newly acquired Jacob Robinson, with a serious chip on his shoulder after being let go by Rinkster (now Carshield). With the likes of another hometown player in Tyler Spezia, and bench boss Joe Cook returning to his roots, Derrick Burnett coming off another gold medal from the World Games, and the return of prodigal son Kyle Novak, this team will be primed and ready for a run at the title.
Game 1: Envious Wings (Friday, July 22nd 12:30 PM EST)
Game 2: PAMA Labeda Golden Knights (Friday, July 22nd 6:00 PM EST)
Game 3: Rink Rat (Saturday, July 23rd 10:25 AM EST)
Game 4: Detroit MK Bordercats (Saturday, July 23rd 7:05 PM EST)
Players to watch: Tyler Spezia, Kyle Novak, Alex Kile
CarShield (formerly Rinkster) #5
Probably one of the most exciting games of last year’s playoffs was between the Road Runners and newly branded CarShield, the Road Runners Blake Bennett netted a hat trick in the second period to route CarShield 6-4, leaving them stunned. With the departure of Jacob Robinson and newly acquired Cam Johnson, CarShield is coached by the one and only George Brown. George has been coaching this group of players between the Excitement and Rinkster for years, and knows his players very well. CarShield with a little bit of a different roster a month ago in Tampa Bay at TORHS was able to capture the title as Pro Champions with a win over the PAMA Labeda Golden Knights in defensive fashion, winning 1-0. Forward standout Garrett Ross is coming off a victory in Birmingham, Alabama with Team USA in the World Games, as he will look to be a catalyst for this offense along with long time partner in crime Matt Berry. This roster also features current NHLer for the Detroit Red Wings in Adam Erne, the Connecticut native, as well as former NHLer Steve Olesky. I foresee this team making the semi-finals, and a 3-1 round robin finish.
Game 1: Konixx (Friday, July 22nd 10:20 AM EST)
Game 2: Mission Labeda Snipers (Friday, July 22nd 10:20 AM EST)
Game 3: Labeda Blood & Feathers (Saturday, July 23rd 12:35 PM EST)
Game 4: Skittles (Saturday, July 23rd 9:15 PM EST)
Players to watch: Garrett Ross, Matt Barry, Nick Okada
Champion Unify Black Ice #4
Acquiring a new sponsor in the Spring in Champion wheels, Black Ice is coming off a Pro Championship at NARCh just a week ago. Featuring a roster with stars and stripes studded talent, four of their players also are coming off a Team USA victory at the World Games. What can be said about this group that hasn’t already been said? They are a favorite to win in every tournament they play in, as head coach Jason Muro has been commanding these troops since they were kids. With the addition of Stephen Versteegen and Jared Gerger, they have gotten faster if that is even possible. The methodical game play of Black Ice is massive puck possession, pouncing on rushes when teams are unable to keep up with their man, and burying pucks at will with the likes of John Schiavo and Tyler Kraft. In my opinion, one of the highest revered players in PJ Dimartino is a one man show, making cuts and spins that break ankles. Not to mention the tandem of Mike Maczynski and Jimmy Teed, this team is poised to return to the PAMA Pro Final.
Game 1: Labeda Shakers (Friday, July 22nd 2:50 PM EST)
Game 2: Tour Road Runners (Friday, July 22nd 9:15 PM EST)
Game 3: Detroit MK Bordercats (Saturday, July 23rd 2:45 PM EST)
Game 4: Rink Rat (Saturday, July 23rd 8:10 PM EST)
Players to watch: Jared Gerger, John Schiavo, PJ DiMartino, Stephen Versteegen, Jimmy Teed
Tour Road Runners #3
Meep meep. Like Black Ice, these guys have been playing together for years in Junior, D1, and now Pro. Speed, speed, and more speed. Led by Joey “Decade” DiMartino on the back end, along with long time teammate Max Halverson, these guys know how to play. They bury pucks on the rush, move the puck as a four-man unit, and use their speed to create mismatches up and down the floor. Anthony Violante has held the reins to this group for years, seeing the development of guys like Christian Acosta and Nick Dellamorte really come into their own. They are backstopped by one of the better tandems in Pro, with the likes of Keith Johnson and Rob Kowalczyk. These guys make the effort to travel to every tournament in the summer, playing in TORHS, NARCh, and State Wars, which helps the chemistry and on rink play tournament by tournament. The Road Runners fell short to the PAMA Labeda Golden Knights last year in the semis. It will be interesting to see how they do without the Bennett brothers, as Blake Bennett netted a lot of pucks for them the past couple of years.
Game 1: Detroit MK Bordercats (Friday, July 22nd 3:50 PM EST)
Game 2: Champion Unify Black Ice (Friday, July 22nd 9:15 PM EST)
Game 3: Labeda Shakers (Saturday, July 23rd 1:40 PM EST)
Game 4: Envious Wings (Saturday, July 23rd 10:20 PM EST)
Players to watch: Joey DiMartino, Max Halvorsen, Nick Dellamorte
PAMA Labeda Golden Knights #2
A meeting with the Snipers in last year’s final is what got into the Golden Knights’ way of earning their first PAMA Pro title. Last year’s championship game featured high flying offenses and goal scoring, while keeping it a close decision that did not get out of hand in 3-2 fashion favoring the Snipers. The Golden Knights, known for their mix of grit and finesse, can play with anybody, any style of game play, can score and skate with the best of them. This team headlined by their leader Travis Noe has been tinkering and adjusting the roster with little pickups here and there throughout the years. Clay Taylor is their backbone in net, as there is no TNT rostered this summer. The net being Clay’s will give him the confidence to potentially put this team over the top. The likes of John Siemer and Junior Cadiz bolster their offense, and with long time stallion Brett Olinger coming off a massive game tying goal in the World Games Final, this team is oozing with confidence, even with a loss to Black Ice last weekend at NARCh. They aim to make Patti and Mike Nijjar proud, and win their first PAMA Pro Invitational title.
Game 1: Rink Rat (Friday, July 22nd 1:45 PM EST)
Game 2: Marsblade (Friday, July 22nd 6:00 PM EST)
Game 3: Envious Wings (Saturday, July 23rd 9:20 AM EST)
Game 4: Labeda Shakers (Saturday, July 23rd 6:00 PM EST)
Players to watch: John Siemer, Travis Noe, Kyle Mayhew, Junior Cadiz
Mission Labeda Snipers #1
Although this team doesn’t play together all through the summer like most of these teams, they don’t need it. They just simply don’t. When you have the likes of Matt White, Chris Terry, and Brandon Hawkins who can all put pucks in at will, they can score as many goals as they need. They have the best roller hockey goalie in the world in Troy Redmann, one of the steadiest defensemen in PJ Kavaya, and the absolute Swiss army knife in Nathan Sigmund. This team is DEADLY. Every team has camaraderie, but these guys have moxie. They play for each other, every shift. Bolstering five Team USA players, they understand what is at stake; they understand that they are the top dog in this division, and that a target is on their back each game, and they thrive under that pressure and expectation for head coach Tim McManus. It will be interesting to see what the absence of Shane Fox brings. Every year for this team is championship or bust, and you can expect that to be the case in Taylor, Michigan in 2022.
Game 1: Skittles (Friday, July 22nd 11:25 AM EST)
Game 2: Carshield (Friday, July 22nd 5:00 PM EST)
Game 3: Konixx (Saturday, July 23rd 11:30 AM EST)
Game 4: Labeda Blood & Feathers (Saturday, July 23rd 4:55 PM EST)
Players to watch: Matt White, Brandon Hawkins, Jack Combs, Nathan Sigmund
***All PAMA Pro Invitational games are streamed by Roller Hockey TV brought to you by CarShield & State Wars Hockey. Link to watch is at www.rollerhockey.tv
You can also download the Team1Sports app to watch on your device as well***