By Hector Trujillo
The San Diego Sockers wrapped up the PASL-Pro Western Division Title and earned a first-round bye for the playoffs after impressive victories over the weekend against Revolucion Tijuana and Edmonton Drillers at the Del Mar Arena.
The Sockers (13-3 overall, 8-0 at home) were led by forward Paul Wright's hat trick in their 12-6 victory over Revolucion Tijuana. San Diego outscored Tijuana 9-4 in the second-half, including six goals in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach.
"These games were huge for our team with the playoffs about to start," Wright said. "We needed to take care of business at home and not look too far ahead."
The victory helped avenge a 9-6 loss suffered at the hands of Revolucion Tijuana two weeks ago in Mexico. San Diego forward Kraig Chiles, who scored his 31st and 32nd goals in the victory, did not play in the loss against Revolucion Tijuana due to an injury.
"You have to be able to recover and execute regardless of the opponent," said Sockers assistant coach Ray Talia. "In the playoffs there really is no preference who your opponent is. We will have to face good teams one way or the other."
San Diego went on to lock-up a first-round bye after an 8-3 victory over visiting Edmonton on Saturday. The Sockers shared the scoring the entire game, putting the game out of reach at 4-1 at the end of the first half.
"It is important for us to be playing our best especially after back to back loses," Wright added. "Having the crowd support was huge because it seemed like we had played at home forever." Before their weekend victories, the Sockers last home game was a 14-7 win over the Texas Outlaws.
The playoffs and North American Championship game will take place at the Del Mar Arena. Last year's host, the California Cougars of Stockton won the inaugural championship. Per league rules, the team that finishes with the best regular season record has the right to host the following year's finals.
There will be five playoff games starting with the quarterfinals at 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on March 11 The semifinals will be played at 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on March 12 at and the finals are scheduled for 6:15 p.m. on March 13. Having earned a bye means that San Diego will not have to play a quarter final match.