Editor's note: Arda Ocal, an Emmy award-nominated broadcaster and the voice of the NHL Gaming World Championship, will be covering the 2019 NHL Gaming World Championship for NHL.com. Here is his recap of the United States Regional final:
Another NHL Gaming World Championship regional champion went undefeated en route to the Final in Las Vegas on June 18.
This time it was Matt "Top Shelf Cookie" Gutkoski, who defeated reigning champion John "Johnwaynee" Casagranda in the U.S. Regional final to take the $5,000 prize and earn a guaranteed final four spot at HyperX Esports Arena Las Vegas.
"The games with John were close," said an ecstatic Gutkoski. "I'm at a loss for words, I can't believe it."
He skipped a family vacation in Mexico in order to compete at the NBC Studios in Stamford, Connecticut, and it certainly paid off. After winning the Columbus Blue Jackets esports tournament a couple months ago, the Ohio State student got on went on a seemingly unstoppable roll, finally securing a tournament victory. He can now call himself a national champion.
Gutkoski will join Casagranda, last year's winner, who for the second year in a row will fly to Vegas from Alaska to try for the world crown. The affable competitor, dubbed "The Alaskan Assassin" for his clutch game play and precision, went undefeated in the tournament before dropping two in a row to Top Cookie in the U.S. final.
They will join MGxNuclear and Yung Gren from Canada, as well as Eki and Hansulinho from Europe to battle for the championship.
The six finalists will draft new teams in advance of the Final. Eki, the defending world champion, MGxNuclear and Top Cookie have secured positions in the final four. Yung Gren, Johnwaynee and Hansulinho will compete in a playoff, with the winner taking the fourth spot.
Because Eki won his bracket by going undefeated with a plus-22 goal differential, he'll await the winner of the second-place playoff. Nuke and Top Cookie will meet in the other semifinal.