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NHL Gaming World Championship crowns new North American champion

Islanders representative 'EZ_Regs' unseats 'Gren-35-' to win title as part of 2022 NHL Draft festivities

by Sean Farrell / Independent Correspondent

MONTREAL -- Justin Reguly defeated Matthew Grenier to win $26,000 and the coveted championship belt and trophy at the 2022 NHL Gaming World Championship: North American Club Final at 1909 Taverne Moderne on Wednesday.

Reguly, who goes by the name EZ_Regs and was representing the New York Islanders, mounted a three-goal comeback before losing Game 1 in overtime of the best-of-three final. He then cruised to the title with a 4-1 win in Game 2 and a 6-2 victory in the decisive game.

"It feels amazing," Reguly said. "Once I was able to force that Game 3, [and after finishing] second last year, I wasn't going to let the moment slip away from me twice. And I did everything I could to make the most of it and I was able to do that."

Reguly won in 2020 and was runner-up to Grenier in the 2021 competition.

"He's the best player in the game and you saw that today," Grenier said. "Congratulations to 'Regs,' you deserve it."

Grenier (Gren-35-), who was representing the Dallas Stars, won $10,000 as the finalist.

"We've grown up together," Reguly said. "We went from kids together to full-grown adults. I put the most hours into this game with him. We continue to push ourselves, to be better than one another. So, getting to hear him say that really does mean a lot to me."

Contestants competed on a PlayStation 5 console during the tournament, a head-to-head, best-of-three series competition. The tournament, held in person for the first time since 2019, coincides with the 2022 Upper Deck NHL Draft at Bell Centre, which starts with the first round on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; ESPN, ESPN+, SN, TVAS) and concludes with Rounds 2-7 on Friday (11 a.m. ET; NHLN, ESPN+, SN, TVAS).

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman attended the final along with top NHL Draft-eligible prospects Shane Wright, Juraj Slafkovsky, Logan Cooley, Cutter Gauthier and Conor Geekie. Emily Clark, who won gold with Canada at the 2022 Beijing Olympics, was also in attendance and is thrilled that women's hockey players are now part of the game.

"We need more women in gaming, too, just as we need more women in hockey," Clark said. "There are a lot of girls that play this game that want to play as people that look like them, so for them to have the option to be one of the women's teams I think is incredible."

Clark faced Wright in a friendly head-to-head game. Wright, the projected No. 1 pick in the 2022 draft, said he was impressed with the tournament and looks forward to inspiring future gamers, just as he admired Pittsburgh Penguins forward Sidney Crosby growing up.

"It's a pretty cool setup here," Wright said. "Just being in the game and actually being able to play as yourself in the game is pretty cool. You grow up playing the game, you grow up playing online and all that, so to actually play as yourself is pretty cool."

Grenier defeated Matthew Geim (Calgary Flames) in a three-game semifinal to advance. Reguly defeated Joseph Olmstead (Detroit Red Wings) 2-0 in the first semifinal.

Eight NHL GWC North American finalists advanced to compete in the tournament from 18,000 gamers who registered in March. Geim and Olmstead each won $2,500 for reaching the semifinals. Johnny Khalil (Minnesota Wild), Edward Nicol-McCabe (Ottawa Senators), Ethan Polgar (Toronto Maple Leafs) and Ben Thompson (Edmonton Oilers) each claimed $1,000 after they were eliminated in the quarterfinals Tuesday.

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