Another Caps esports Face-off qualifier is in the books and we finally have our first non-European finalist. The surprise this week wasn’t an unknown player or a big upset. It was a gameplay tuner. More specifically, the ‘beta rollback’ tuner that went live in NHL 19 on Friday – just over 24 hours before the qualifier. Players around the world spent the entire week preparing for this event, only to show up and have to play a very different version of the game. With a trip to Washington on the line, this ‘new’ tuner threw a wrench into everyone’s game-plan and the field was blown wide open.
177 players from around the world were randomly seeded into eight separate double elimination, Best-of-1 format brackets. Only four players from each of those brackets would be moving on to the Top 32, and only two players would qualify for the finals.
The brackets featured a few major disappointments this week, as Finland’s ‘PleeMaker’, who had qualified for the NHL GWC European Regionals last year, and is widely known as one of the best players in the world, made his Caps esports Face-off debut and was handed his first loss early in the third round by ‘MrNipsuli‘ (more on him later). He went on to lose his second consecutive game, this one against ‘Redwing978’, and his tournament was over.
In that same bracket, we saw ‘Miviens‘ lose to ‘iTzzGameTime’ in overtime, and then had his run swiftly ended by ‘ProfessorGregy’. Another surprise was ‘HK’ (aka HockeyKings or OFs) who eliminated ‘Joshfearless’ to advance to the Top 32, sending Josh to the loser’s bracket for the second straight week. The other notable disappointment was NHL GWC bronze medalist ‘Johnwaynee‘ who struggled mightily with the gameplay tuner and was not able to make the Top 32 after he was knocked out by ‘Henny’.
The Top 32
With Eki and EkenJr already qualified, the winner’s bracket featured six returning players from last weekend: ‘JrPens’, ‘Baky’, ‘Regs’, ‘Bouch’, ‘Kriketsi‘ and ‘Hansulinho‘. There was also alot of talent in the loser’s bracket, featuring Lazarus teammates Joshfearless and ‘Foolx90’.
The first round of the winner’s bracket had some big matchups including HK and ‘Canadiens’, who were both making their debuts in the tournament. HK continued his impressive run and pulled out the win to move on to the quarter-finals. Elsewhere, ‘Odiee’ sent ‘Kriketski’ to the losers bracket, while Lazarus member Bouch knocked off his teammate DaddyPadre in the first round. There was also a big game between Finnish heavyweights Hansulinho and MrNipsuli, where MrNipsuli escaped with the victory. This set up one of the most entertaining games in the tournament between MrNispuli and HK.
HK vs MrNipsuli | Winners Bracket Semi-final
This game was nuts from the start. MrNipsuli scored early, but HK answered with two quick goals to take the lead. MrNipsuli responded with two of his own goals in 20 seconds to retake the lead. In the second period, HK scored another two to put him up 4-3, and then MrNispuli answered again with two of his own. It was 5-4 MrNipsuli to start the third period, and this one got even crazier. With 11 minutes to go, MrNipsuli went up 6-4 with a nice feed in front. Six seconds later HK scored pulling him within one goal, and then with under four minutes to play, he tied it up.
I think you can guess what happened next.
HK got caught with his net unguarded and MrNipsuli walked out in front and buried the biscuit to retake the lead for good. After putting up an incredible battle, HK fell short and was subsequently bounced from the tournament by another Finn, ‘Kriketsi’.
Regs vs MrNipsuli | Winners Bracket Final
Regs got his second shot at a trip to Washington after falling short in the loser bracket finals last week. This was another high ping, cross-continental game, and it was extremely defensive. Regs continued his dominance in his own end with great board plays, while MrNipsuli did well to block the cross-ice one-timers that Regs does so well. In the first minute of the third, however, Regs would punch his ticket to the finals when he scored the game’s only goal.
MrNipsuli headed to the loser’s bracket final and waited patiently for his next opponent.
DaddyPadre vs JrPens | Losers Bracket Quarter-Final
It’s always interesting when teammates play each other in esports tournaments, and this one did not disappoint. Lazarus teammates DaddyPadre and JrPens both played a very cautious, mistake-free game. After three periods it was tied 2-2. Mid-way through overtime, JrPens scored one of the better goals of the day, spinning through Padre’s defenses and going far-side to end his teammate’s run.
Kriketsi vs JrPens | Losers Bracket Semi-Final
The stakes were higher in this one since a Kriketsi win would guarantee that a third European player would be headed to Washington. This game had internet connection issues as well, but both players battled through. In the third period, JrPens scored to go up 3-2, and then iced the game with a nice passing play.
Winning the game 4-2, he moved on to the losers bracket final with the chance to be the first American representative in the finals. He would have to take down MrNipsuli first though.
JrPens vs MrNipsuli | Losers Bracket Final
What we hoped would be another tight game turned out to be more lopsided than we could’ve imagined. MrNipsuli scored early and then worked the puck in JrPens’ zone for almost an entire half of the first period. JrPens could simply not handle the pressure MrNipsuli was putting on him throughout the game and would go on to lose 3-0, making MrNipsuli the third European player to qualify.
The third qualifier out of four will be played next weekend, and with Eki, EkenJr, Regs, and MrNipsuli already moving on, it will be interesting to see if the big North American players that have been quiet thus far can take advantage of the weaker field and run the table.