The CRL Spring 2022 NA National Championship just ended, and there’s a lot to unpack. The National Championship was held from March 30th to the 31st and it was explosive. There were many surprises and miraculous comebacks along the way. In this article, we will give a brief run-through of the outcome. Before talking about the results of the Championship however, let’s do a quick recap of each Conference Playoffs.
This season, the National Championship held 6 total slots for teams to compete; 3 for each conference, meaning the top 3 teams from each Conference Playoffs would qualify. From the East, the 8 teams that qualified for the Playoffs were: Northwood Blue, Valleyfield, St. Clair Saints Gold, the Akron Zips, Stockton University, VESPA, and Oakland University. Of those 8 teams, the three teams to advance to the Championship were Northwood Blue, Stockton University, and St. Clair. To the surprise of many based on their performance in League Play, UCF were unable to qualify. From the West, the 8 teams that qualified for Playoffs were: Columbia College, the Ottawa Braves, UNLV, Mizzou Gold, UT Arlington, SDSU, LSU, and Missouri S&T. Of those 8 teams, the three teams that advanced were Columbia College, UNLV, and UT Arlington. Again, surprisingly to fans, LSU were unable to qualify despite their 14-1 series record in League Play.
These 6 teams put on an amazing show in the National Championship. The Championship format was Bo7 for each series with an upper and lower bracket (double elimination). Since Northwood Blue and Columbia College finished in first place for their respective conferences, they were automatically placed in the Upper Semi-Finals, with the remaining 4 teams being required to first compete in the Upper Quarter-Finals. The Upper Quarter-Finals placed UT Arlington and St. Clair against each other in the first matchup, and Stockton vs UNLV in the second. After going down 1-2 in game 3, UT Arlington were able to come back and win the final 3 games in the Bo7, meaning they would advance to the Upper Semis to play against Northwood Blue. The Stockton vs UNLV matchup saw a similar series of events, with Stockton going down 1-3 in game 4, but coming back to win the next 3 games of the series and advancing to the Upper Semis to play Columbia College.
Northwood Blue were able to full-sweep UT Arlington in the first matchup of the Upper Semi-Finals, which sent UTA down to the Loser’s Bracket to play UNLV in the Lower Quarter-Finals and advanced Northwood Blue to the Upper Bracket Final. The Columbia College vs Stockton matchup was much closer, however, with each team trading games back and forth throughout the whole series and taking it to game 7. In the final game of the series, Stockton were able to shut out Columbia College 3-0, meaning Stockton would advance to the Upper Bracket Final to play Northwood Blue, and Columbia would be sent down to the Lower Quarter-Finals to play St. Clair.
In the first match of the Lower Quarter-Finals, UNLV were able to take the series against UT Arlington 4-2, which eliminated UTA from the tournament and advanced UNLV to the Lower Semi-Finals. UTA were able to keep it close in most of the matches throughout the series, but ultimately fell in game 6 after losing 0-1. In the second match, Columbia College, similar to their series against Stockton in the Upper Semis, went down 1-3 in game 4 to St. Clair, but were able to bring it back and win the remaining 3 games to take the series 4-3 in game 7. This meant that St. Clair would be eliminated, and Columbia College would advance to the Lower Semis to play UNLV.
In the Lower Semi-Final match, UNLV went down 2-3 in game 5 to Columbia College, which took the series to a match-point game 6. Despite a great effort, UNLV were ultimately eliminated after losing game 6 1-2, which meant Columbia would advance to the Lower Bracket Final to play the loser of the Upper Bracket Final.
In the Upper Bracket Final, Stockton were able to take game 1 against Northwood Blue 2-1. However, Northwood were able to take the next 3 games by 1 goal, which meant the series would go to a match-point game 5. Northwood then ran away with game 5 in dominant fashion, winning 5-1. This meant Northwood would advance to the Grand Finals with the added momentum of being undefeated in the Championship, and Stockton would be sent to the Lower Bracket final for a rematch against Columbia College.
The Lower Bracket Final was insane, with Columbia College taking the first 3 games of the series, then Stockton taking the next 3 to advance the series to game 7. In the final game of the series, Columbia College were able to take the win 5-2, which eliminated Stockton and meant that Columbia would be playing Northwood Blue for the #1 spot in the Spring 2022 season of CRL in the Grand Finals. However, if Columbia wanted that #1 spot, they would have to survive the bracket reset and beat Northwood in 2 Bo7 series.
Nobody expected what came next. Northwood Blue were full-swept by Columbia College in the first series of the Grand Finals despite keeping it close, losing 3/4 of the games in the series by 1 goal. Columbia College were on fire, and showed no signs of slowing down. They had survived the bracket reset, and were on track to take the first place spot in dominant fashion. However, after the reset, Northwood Blue pulled themselves together and clutched out 3 consecutive wins in the second series of the Grand finals, winning game 1 5-1, game 2 5-2, and game 3 2-0. Columbia College went into game 4 with no momentum whatsoever, but they were undeterred. Columbia took game 4 by 1 goal, 4-3, and they didn’t stop there. They took game 5 4-2 and game 6 3-1 to advance the series to an electrifying and extremely unpredictable game 7. In this final game of the Championship, with nerves running high and players looking much more human, both teams played very defensively, with no goals being scored in regulation to bring it to a 0-0 overtime. However, after what must have felt like the longest 51 seconds of these 6, extremely talented players’ lives, Northwood Blue finally put in a less-than spectacular goal to end the series and take their spot as the #1 ranked team in the CRL Spring 2022 season.
While the National Championship might be over for NA, the World Championship is still to come, and there’s plenty more content to watch out for in the next couple months. A total of 16 teams will be competing in the World Championship which will be held from June 3-5. The top 6 teams from the NA National Championship will be competing in the World Championship, with the other 4 NA slots goto the top 4 teams from the North American Last-Chance Qualifier, which will take place May 2-5. Additionally, 4 slots will go to EU teams competing in the European University Rocketeers’ Championship. The final 2 slots will go to EU teams from the EU Last-Chance Qualifier. Playoffs for the EURC are currently taking place and end April 10th, with Finals being held April 16-17. If you want to watch our talented EU counterparts compete in the coming weeks, you can do so here. For more information on the North American Last-Chance Qualifier, the EURC, and the upcoming World Championship, click here. Congratulations to Northwood Blue, and we look forward to seeing all 16 teams competing in the first CRL World Championship to see who the #1 CRL team in the World is!