With the downfall of some of the most popular leagues for players in New England came the birth of many new options for players. The New England Hurricanes, the team that has been regarded as the premier team out of the area, stepped up to provide another option for tournament players. Hurricanes owner Jeff Stein and his team have established a relationship with Paintball Sports Promotions (PSP), establishing a regional “RaceTo” series in the New England Area. Stein and the Hurricanes join the Arizona Paintball Players League, The Carolina Field Owner’s Association, The Central Florida Paintball Series, The Vicious Series, and the West Coast Paintball Players League as affiliate leagues of the PSP series. The Hurricanes Tournament Series was designed to follow the PSP “RaceTo” structure to help players prepare for the format that is played at the national level. The structure for the first event was “RaceTo” 4 with a fifteen minute time restriction. Stein states that one of the series’ goals is to encourage teams from the New England area to compete on a national level.
The Hurricanes Tournament Series’ inaugural event drew a relatively low number of teams ranging from diverse backgrounds. This event appealed to teams from around New England. Their roads to the Hurricane’s Tournament Series all are very different. Possibly the most notable teams in terms of success in an Xball Format were Fox 4 Paintball’s Upton 187 Crew and Matt’s Outback Paintball’s Team No Name. Both of these franchises are well known for their participation in the American Extreme Paintball League (AXBL). Both had successful in their regular season campaigns in 2009 and won a place in the AXBL playoffs, known as the NAX Finals. Upton 187 Crew plans to use this event as preparation for their participation in the PSP Chicago Event. Team No Name includes the Summer Xball Series at their home field, Matt’s Outback in Coventry, Connecticut and the New York Paintball League in their plans for the season. Another team making the trip from Connecticut was Hartford Hustle. Hustle derives from two former 5man teams Green Street Elite and SP Exile. The tournament series also attracted two of the larger franchises in the area, The Boston Reapers and Team Identity. The Reapers are a franchise consisting of teams participating in both the 5 man and Xball formats. The team is based out of New Hampshire, calling Granite State Paintball and New Hampshire Indoor Paintball Home. The Reapers are relatively new to the Xball format, and come to the league after participating in 5 man formats in both the New England Paintball League and The North East Paintball Series. Team Identity is one of the area’s largest franchises consisting of many players and teams participating locally at the 5 and 7 man levels along with owning two New England Xball League franchises. The team has players from all over the New England states, playing out of Maynard Paintball Club. Identity submitted two teams to this event under the names of Identity Creed and Identity Fyre. Identity’s Fyre line comes to the Hurricanes Tournament Series fresh off a fourth place finish in the first New England Xball League Event. An event where the host New England Hurricane’s took home first place. Identity plans to compete locally in the New England Paintball League in 5 man, 7 man, and Xball as well as participating in some NPPL and PSP events on the national level. “As a whole, I knew we were not what I considered match tough or diverse enough when we are under the gun of a tournament match. This event gave us the perfect opportunity to work on such things knowing we would get the proper reffing so we can analyze real situations.” said Identity captain David Archibald. Worcester Legion, another team coming out of the AXBL from 2009 also entered into the first Hurricanes Event. The team was familiar with the facility as they call the event location, Camelot Paintball in Chicopee, Massachusetts their home. The team plans to participate in the Eastern Regional Field Owner’s Association events at Fox 4 Paintball this season.
The inaugural event took place at Camelot Paintball in Chicopee, Massachusetts. A facility that Jeff Stein feels is “an active tournament field, with multiple full size Xball fields and a number of teams.” The location was also chosen to provide a tournament series at a different field making it more accessible to those who may have longer drives to premier fields in central Massachusetts. The facility was great for this event. Players found themselves playing on an all grass Xball field with a roomy pit for each team on the sidelines. The layout was the PSP Chicago layout. The New England Hurricanes were the referees for the event with Jeff Stein organizing the teams and the scores. Jeff Stein also brought in Billy Bernacchia to help and advise teams as he watched games and interacted with players. “Giving local players the opportunity to tap Billy on the shoulder and ask for advice is big, and it was good to see him out there helping people get better at paintball.” said Stein.
Coming into the day, Hartford Hustle’s Jason Palmer admitted that his team “Knew that 187 Crew and the Team No Name would be in the top of the standings.” Palmer and his team played their first game of the day, against a team that they are very familiar with, Team No Name. Both teams practice together at Matt’s Outback Paintball. Team No Name showed their experience in this match, taking care of the inexperienced Hustle 4 to 1. This game was followed by a game featuring another one of the top teams in the event Upton 187 Crew. Their opponent Identity Fyre, was worthy proving themselves with success in their first X-ball event, taking fourth place at the NEXL’s first event. Despite a strong fight by Fyre, 187 Crew’s experience prevailed and the reigning AXBL Western conference champions began their day with a win. The other team from the AXBL also made noise early in the day. Coming off a four to one victory in the first match of the day, Worcester Legion took the field against Identity Creed. Legion took their second win against the relatively inexperienced Creed line showing their experience and adjusting to the Identity breakouts. Following this game, two teams who had dropped their first match took the field, The Boston Reapers and Identity Fyre. Both were relatively inexperienced X-ball squads, and the matchup seemed to be a good one. The Reapers were able to rebound from their first loss to go on to a 4-2 victory against Identity Fyre. Reaper’s captain Karl Hubner attributed their success to some coaching change ups, a conservative breakout, and a two on one pulled out by the Reaper’s Ross Tucker.
The next match, was by far the most anticipated of the day featuring two of the AXBL’s NAX finalists Team No Name and Upton 187 Crew. 187 Crew who finished second overall in the AXBL regular season in 2009 continued their dominance in the format by making quick work of No Name in a 4 to 1 victory. Following this many believed that 187 Crew was a sure shot to be an undefeated team in their remaining two matches. However, in 187 Crew’s next match they were faced with a relatively inexperienced Boston Reapers team which resulted in an exciting match. Reaper’s captain Karl Hubner described his opponent as “What [they] hope to be one day as a team.” Hubner went on to say that the team used this match to “let them measure themselves against the best.” The Reapers took the first two points of the match. With the next point going to 187 Crew, The Reapers answered the call and brought the match to 3 to 1 in their favor with one minute and forty seconds remaining in the timed fifteen minute match. 187 crew won the next point, flying up the snake to take the point and bring the match to 3-2 with forty seconds left. The last point ended in a stalemate, with 187 Crew running down the field as the Boston Reapers held on for the upset. Hubner and 187 Crew’s coach Dave Painter agreed that the outcome may have been much different if there had been ten more seconds on the game clock.
In between these two matches were matches that cannot be forgotten. Hartford Hustle was able to defeat Identity Creed in a close match, 4 to 3. Following their teammates loss Identity’s Fyre team took the field, beating the experienced former MXL team Worcester Legion. Identity’s Creed line took the field after their teammates to attempt to get their first win against Team No Name. Unfortunately for the Creed team, they were defeated by the experienced No Name line. Following this game 187 Crew defeated Hartford Hustle 4-2, coming back from a 2 to 1 deficit to start the match. With a one match break, No Name also got a shot at the other Identity Line, Fyre. Again in this match, No Name’s experience was too much to overcome for Identity. Seeking a win, the Identity Creed line took the field for their final match against the Boston Reapers, a team with high confidence coming off a win against Upton 187 Crew, which was regarded to be one of the best teams competing in the series. Identity Creed needed to put all it had into their first win, as they edged out a 4-3 victory in a sudden death overtime period.
At the end of the day four teams earned the right to move on to the playoffs. These teams were Team No Name, Upton 187 Crew, Worcester Legion, and The Boston Reapers. Each of these teams had a 3-1 record except the Boston Reapers who finished at 2-2 in the preliminary round. The Boston Reapers, forfeited their match in the finals withdrawing themselves from a chance to advance on to play for first place in the event. Karl Hubner apologized for having to withdraw his team, saying that money and time constraints caused his team to withdraw, as the high school and college students had a long road trip a head of them.
After the Reaper’s departure this left one semi final game to be played between Team No Name and Worcester Legion. The winner of this match would go on to play Upton 187 Crew who received an automatic ticket to the finals with the Boston Reapers forfeit. This matchup brought together two teams that were experience in the Xball format, with experience in the AXBL in the 2009 season. However, Team No Name was able to win the match by a 4 to 1 margin leaving Worcester Legion with third place for the event. With Team No Name moving on they were faced with a tough opponent in Upton 187 Crew. When the teams met in the preliminary round 187 Crew won the match easily 4 to 1. Team No Name came into the finals knowing that they had to adjust against 187 to avoid going home with second place. The match went back and forth with Team No Name taking home first place when time was called in a 3-2 match. A fatigued 187 Crew Team felt that a few more seconds could have affected the outcome of this match and the event as a whole.
Stein and company were happy with the outcome of the event and look forward to the second event in the series which will be hosted at Fox 4 Paintball in Upton, Massachusetts. “We’re excited for the opportunity to showcase our facility to the x-ball community when the 2nd stop of the HTS comes to Fox 4 Paintball in late July. I’m confident that the event will be a huge success and that it will continue to grow in popularity as time goes on.” said Fox 4 Paintball’s owner Dave Painter. Stein says that despite the success of the first event, he plans to make some improvements in order to make event two better and hopes to see the participation grow as the series goes on. Identity’s Dave Archibald recommends this series to Xball teams in New England, “As to the teams that have not participated in the HTS, I do endorse and recommend this event to any X-ball team of any level.” Stein and the New England Hurricanes will be announcing more details about the second event in the coming weeks. Stay tuned to Pbnation.com and Paintball-Players.org for registration and event details.
You can check out Kevin's HTS Event 1 gallery HERE, and remember kids, he's for hire at many events!