BURBANK, California - Laval University won the Heroes of the Dorm championship Saturday with a 3-0 victory against Buffalo at Blizzard Arena in Burbank, California.
Laval's players earned the equivalent of full-ride scholarships to their schools as the prize for their win. After the confetti rained down and team captain Jérôme "Earth" Levesque got a few minutes with his family - who brought a Canadian flag to the stage floor -- the players got to bask in being the first team from Canada to win a Heroes of the Dorm title.
In fact, no Canadian team had qualified for the Heroic Four prior to Laval making the semifinals.
"It was an incredible experience to just be here and represent Canada and have all these people cheering for us," Laval player Patrick "Wouka" Langlois said. "I think we made them proud."
Buffalo got to Saturday's final with an upset win over the event's presumed favorite going into the tournament, UC Irvine, in the quarterfinals. The No. 8 seed went on to beat No. 5 Cal Poly Pomona in a 3-2 thriller that was the highlight of Saturday's action.
But No. 2 Laval, which had practiced against pro talent in the Heroes Global Championship Open division, proved to be too much for Buffalo. The first Canadian team to make the Heroic Four managed to sweep No. 3 Kentucky, which was back in the semifinals for the second straight year, and then set its sights on Buffalo.
"You can kind of copy and just take what is good from what they do into Dorm," Earth said of his team's matches against HGC opponents. "It really helped us because not every Dorm team can have this kind of practice."
Though Buffalo hung with Laval early in Game 1, solid laning from Earth and surgical execution in a 3-for-0 teamfight gave Laval all the advantage it needed to get an early series lead.
"Actually, the first game was really tough," despite Laval not surrendering a kill, Earth said. "It kind of surprised us. But eventually, the game passed. In Game 3, we were really confident."
Laval's style of play had a lot to do with what it learned by playing in the HGC Open as Rouge et Au, a moniker Laval kept for its Heroes of the Dorm team name. The team regularly scrimmaged against pro-level opponents - and, team members made clear, got the better of some of those teams often after some early struggles in Open qualifying.
"We've had a lot of high moments but also a lot of bad moments to get to this moment," Laval player Bruce "Nesdip" Jouve said. "When we met, we played two weeks of scrims, and it was really painful to lose nearly all of them. But we managed it."
And the reward for that patience: A big check and a championship celebration that, admittedly, began a bit early.
"Only one guy was like, 'Hit the Core! Hit the Core!'" Earth said. "Everyone else was cheering."