Photo credit to Janelle Etzel Photography
By Jesse Vineyard/GCU Staff
It was billed as a fun night to celebrate the release of a popular video game in an eSports tournament.
What made the night even better was winning the whole thing.
To help promote the release of EA Sports’ NHL 19, the Arizona Coyotes hosted an eSports tournament at The Park in downtown Phoenix Wednesday night for men’s and women’s collegiate teams at Grand Canyon University, Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University. In a format that consisted of a collegiate bracket and a grand prize championship game, GCU Men’s Ice Hockey’s Division II team made it through each round to win the collegiate bracket, and went on to defeat Brendan Perlini and Christian Fischer of the Coyotes in the final round to earn a championship trophy and a total of $6,500 for the program.
“The opportunity to be a part of an event like that was really unique and fun,” Lopes’ Head Coach Danny Roy said. “Instead of (the Coyotes) just doing a general event, they tailored it to our programs for the first one ever.
“Winning it just made it even more awesome.”
In front of a supportive packed house and large television screens, sophomore goalie Michael Barabash and senior forward Wyatt Grant of the DII team partnered up in both the collegiate championship and grand prize final. After defeating ASU’s DII team, 4-3, in the collegiate final – winning $3,000 in the process – they moved on to play against Perlini and Fischer for an additional $1,000 prize.
Even while not being self-proclaimed gamers themselves, Barabash and Grant were able to pull away quickly, going up 8-0 early into the third period, and ultimately coming away with a decisive 10-3 victory.
“We didn’t really have a strategy,” Grant said. “Just try and score as many goals as possible. I never thought I would be competing in a video game for my college team, so it was a little different feeling, but it was a lot of fun.”
The tournament itself was double-elimination, and each team had to play as the video game-version of the Coyotes in seven-minute periods. A total of $10,000 was allocated as a prize pool for each of the participating teams and all proceeds to the event went to support the Arizona Coyotes Foundation. On top of the prize money earned by Barabash and Grant, the Lopes’ DIII team earned $1,500 and the women’s team helped add $1,000.
Having to go through ASU, NAU and even their own teammates, friendly competition was all part of the night’s event. Aside from receiving good prize money, the Lopes and all teams were able to gain sizeable recognition and promotion from their hometown professional team.
“On a personal level, it was really cool to win, but Wyatt and I were more excited to win for the program just because of the funds that will be donated to us,” Barabash said. “Just getting a shout-out from the Coyotes, and being featured on their social media will show that there is other good, high-end hockey available in town.”