North America provided scintillating gameplay all weekend long.
As the Winter Split came to a close, North America made sure fans weren't disappointed as underdogs and heavy hitters alike provided spectacular games, filled with big shots and close overtimes.
5) North America Loser’s Round 2 - Version1 vs Alpine Esports
This series featured two teams who fans might not have expected to make a deep run in the tournament, but both teams needed a massive win here to boost their chances at a World’s qualification spot. Alpine sit at eighth place currently, and Version1 at twelfth.
The series would be a trading of punches, with both teams taking commanding wins from each other. After the teams combined in Game 4 for seven goals, the decider would end up being a stalemate as a 1-1 draw ensued until after four minutes of overtime. It was Version1 that triumphed in the end, taking a crucial win over one of their prime competitors for a late spot in the World’s qualification. The Spring Split will be crucial for both squads, but it was a little bit of ground gained for Version1, who had their best tournament of the season. They have certainly looked like a completely transformed team since their eighteenth-place finish back in the Fall Split.
4) North America Winner’s Quarterfinals - Soniqs vs Rogue
The Susquehanna Soniqs came out of the gates blazing hot, taking down the Pittsburgh Knights and even managing the first two games against Envy. Team Envy looked out of sorts, getting outscored 1-7 in those two games. On match point, they were taken to overtime and only took thirty seconds to turn the series around. They would take Game 4 by a score of 2-0, and you know the game is over when you take Envy to Champion’s Field. It was a reverse sweep for Envy at an unexpected time, so early in the tournament, but they would ride the momentum into the Winner’s Finals.
The Soniqs would finish the Winter Split at eleventh-place, which is by no means terrible, but it is only a slight improvement from the Fall Split. They will have to put up some big results in Spring to take anybody out of the top six, but they have been an entertaining dark horse team throughout the season.
3) North America Loser’s Round 1 - G2 Esports vs Rogue
A clash between two teams like this is rare in the first round of the Loser’s bracket, but that’s what happens when these Major’s roll around. The competition tightens, and every goal is that much more intense. After rolling to a 5-1 win in Game 1, Rogue fell after four and a half minutes of overtime. G2 would take Game 2 convincingly, but Rogue found their form when it mattered most. They were the reigning Regional champions for a reason, and in Games 4 and 5, they would outscore G2 by a score of 9-3. Even though it was exciting to see Rogue make it through, fans of G2 would be crushed by their team’s 0-2 weekend, with both series ending in a crushing Game 5 defeat.
2) North America Loser’s Round 2 - Kansas City Pioneers vs Rogue
In another fascinating lower bracket matchup, the struggling Pioneers were fresh off of a solid win over the Soniqs. Rogue was ready to turn on the heat, and it looked like they would run away with this series from the get-go. While limiting the Pioneers to a single goal in the first two games, they scored seven goals for themselves. Despite the slow start, the Pioneers turned around the series by fighting through a 1-1 draw to force overtime. After three minutes of extra time, Kansas City was able to keep their tournament hopes alive. They would score both of their goals before the three-minute mark and were forced to hold on to their lead as Rogue tallied eleven shots on net.
Then, in one of the most intense games of the weekend, a six-minute overtime treated fans to a golden goal scenario that featured twenty-seven total shots. Rogue would ride the momentum of this Game 5 victory over KCP, and the previous series against G2, all the way to the Grand Finals as they would go on to sweep Spacestation Gaming, The Peeps, and Team Envy, all 4-0, to give themselves a chance to take first place for two tournaments in a row. Rogue has looked incredible for the past two tournaments, and are making the gap between the top six teams in the region and everybody else even wider.
1) North America Grand Finals - NRG vs Rogue
As spectacular as Rogue’s run through the lower bracket was, NRG’s domination of the winner’s rounds was a foretelling of what was to come. NRG handled Spacestation Gaming and Team Envy with ease, but Rogue was up to the task of making it a tight series.
Game 1 was a bit out of alignment with expectations, as Rogue took it 4-0, but after that, the teams began to match each other game for game. It would end up going to Game 7 when Rogue would ride a one-goal lead into the bracket reset.
Coming into the second series, Rogue looked to be using that momentum to their advantage as they took a 2-1 series lead. Their loss during that span in overtime, NRG took another overtime victory in Game 4 to equalise the series. As tight as the series was, it was at this point that NRG broke through to claim victory. It was NRG’s third appearance in a Grand Final this split, and they would finish Winter on top.
Images via Liquipedia | @RLEsports