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Gaming World Championships

NHL's inaugural World Gaming Championship a success

Finland's Tammenpaa sweeps best-of-3 final to win $50,000

by Danny Webster / Correspondent

LAS VEGAS -- Erik Tammenpaa needed one win to guarantee a spot in the finals of the inaugural NHL World Gaming Championship. He won with ease, and it didn't stop there.

Tammenpaa won the first two games of the best-of-3 final against David Roebuck to win the inaugural NHL esports championship at Allied Esports Arena at the Luxor Hotel & Casino. 

"I'm just so happy I won," said Tammenpaa, who won $50,000. "It's so relieving. I kind of imagined I would win, but just doing it is amazing."


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The six finalists, two from the United States, two from Canada and two from Europe, concluded their round robin play Tuesday. Roebuck, the United States runner-up, won his first three matches Monday to clinch a spot in the championship round before play resumed Tuesday. 

Roebuck's first match in Round 4 was against Tammenpaa, the European champion from Finland, who won 7-1 to clinch a spot in the final. Tammenpaa then defeated Matthew Grenier, the Canada runner-up, 6-1, to close round robin play.

In a unique approach, each gamer used the Pittsburgh Penguins in their matchups. Pittsburgh's speed in the game was a beneficial tool in playing on a local area network (LAN), said most of the gamers. 

Game 1 of the final was nothing like the offensive showcase from the previous round. Roebuck scored early in the third period to make it 1-0, but Tammenpaa scored twice in a three-minute span to win 2-1.

Game 2 featured more offense. Roebuck scored at 12:01 of the second period to cut Tammenpaa's lead to 4-3, but with 10 seconds remaining Tammenpaa made it 5-3. It was the second time in the game he scored with less than 10 seconds left in a period. Tammenpaa scored twice in the third to win 7-3.

"His defense is the best I've ever played," said Roebuck, who won $15,000. "My offense, I feel, is very good, but he's so hard to crack. It makes you get impatient. Once you start having breakdowns, he's able to capitalize on everything."

Fans wore their country's colors and waved flags in the 30,000-square-foot, multi-level arena that looks like a video game haven inside a spaceship.

John Wayne Casagranda, the winner of the U.S. regional tournament, finished third and won $10,000. A fan of the Arizona Coyotes and native of Anchorage, Alaska, Casagranda said the experience playing in Las Vegas has been unlike anything he's ever experienced.

"A year ago, I never would have thought about this with esports," Casagranda said. "The NHL has had such a nice transition with it. It's one of those things I'll remember for the rest of my life."

The inaugural championship brought a unique blend of players, including Grenier, at 16, the youngest competitor of the tournament.

"It's been cool," he said. "It's obviously not the ending I want, but it's been great being here."

Tammenpaa's teammate, Arttu Mustila, predicted he would not only win the finals, but would complete the sweep.

"It's been a fantastic experience," Mustila said after finishing sixth and winning $2,500. "I played so bad, but I still had so much fun."

When the buzzer sounded and the confetti burst on the stage, Tammenpaa stood center stage, trophy in sight, standing next to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. Minutes passed, and Tammenpaa still couldn't believe it. Being the best in the world left him at a loss for words.

"This was a really well-done tournament," he said. "It's an unreal feeling. That's all I can say."

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