What’s up everyone, we’re back again to break down this year’s top of the line low-kick point hockey sticks. We’ll cover unique specs and upgraded features for each model and then I’ll throw in a few personal thoughts from my experiences playing with it. We’ll start with the sticks that were actually released in 2016, the Warrior Covert QRL and the second generation Bauer Vapor 1X, and I’ll wrap up with a recap of the 2015 low kicks, the Sherwood Rekker EK60, the CCM RibCor Reckoner and the Easton Stealth CX.
As a quick refresher, the kick point or the flex profile of a stick is where the stick flexes most, which drastically changes how the shot is released. Mid-kick sticks are for players who really lean into and load up on their shots whereas low-kick shooters primarily generate quick power with their wrists, they commonly shoot of the inside foot or often shoot in stride. For all of the mid-kick shooters out there, a mid-kick point stick breakdown and buying guide will be up next week! If you’d like to learn more about what truly makes a low kick stick, a low kick stick or if you’d like to better understand the differences between low kick and mid kick sticks, make sure you check out our in-depth blog here. For everyone else, let’s get this thing going eh?
- Minimus 1000 Carbon Fiber – The biggest change in the QRL coming from the QR1. Carbon fiber is the driving force in any hockey stick and Warrior made a huge leap when they decided to go with the aerospace grade Minimus 1000. Compared back to the QR1, the QRL is 40% stronger and 10% lighter all the while, the stick has yet again the quickest shot release from any Warrior stick ever.
- Dagger T3 Taper – Working extremely close with the carbon fiber is the uniquely shaped taper. The shaft of the QRL aggressively tapers into the blade with most of the tapering happening on the top side with the bottom side ending up a bit wider. The top is thinner to increase the shot loading rate while the wider bottom portion of the shaft helps to prevent the shaft from torquing and twisting on big shots, which is key to maintaining top notch accuracy.
- True1 One-Piece Construction Process – This is another carry over technology but it plays a pivotal role which the Minimus Carbon Fiber. Warrior’s unique process helped reduce the overall weight of the stick, bringing it down to a point where no Warrior stick had been before, 410 grams.
- Stick Weight – 410 grams (senior)
- Puck Feel – Lively
- Personal Thoughts – As someone who used the QR1 in the past, I was surprisingly impressed with the QRL’s on-ice performance. While the update this year may not be the flashiest or coolest sounding, tangible results always are. I also like how Warrior stuck with the same price as the QR1 ($269.99 in senior). Weighing in at 410 grams with a true one-piece construction, this thing feels very well balanced and of course feather light. The shot release is incredible and the QRL definitely sets the bar high for the other low kick point sticks. My QRL is holding strong after about a month and a half of use but my fellow IW product tester Chris broke his in just a few weeks. So durability could be an issue but I haven’t heard from too many others of such an issue. I have a feeling it was just bad luck.
- New Fiber Orientation – Similar to Minimus Carbon Fiber on the QRL, this upgrade isn’t flashy but it provides a tangible improvement over the previous generation. Bauer is currently working on a top secret project for 2017 that will sure to shake things up but we will start seeing this new R&D technology slowly make their way into new stick lines. During the construction process, the carbon fiber layers are laid down in new patterns that allow Bauer to increase strength by 30%, to reduce weight by 10 grams and sped up the shot loading process. All three areas of improvement are key but the strength increase was the most needed as the lower taper was a weak point on the first generation 1X.
- Quick Release Technology – The 2016 Vapor 1X uses similar taper geometry as the QRL since it too aggressively tapers from both the top and bottom of the shaft but for Vapor, this change was significant. Vapor’s previous Intelli-Sense Technology had been around for many generations and it was refreshing to see a big change. Comparing the two Vapor flex profiles, the new QRT Taper loads 20% quicker and recoils 28% faster than Intelli-Sense and this was hands down the biggest upgrade in the Vapor Line to date. Like previously mentioned, Bauer still wanted to improve the durability which was handling in this second generation of 1X that has a 30% stronger taper.
- eLASTech Resin & TeXtreme Carbon Fiber – Both of these have been an exclusive staple in Bauer sticks over the years. Typically TeXtreme is used in the outer layers of carbon when Bauer is building their sticks and the reason why they chose TeXtreme over anything else is of strength. Compared to traditional carbon, TeXtreme is 20% lighter and 20% stronger too. The eLASTech Resin is also exclusive to Bauer and has some very interesting characteristics. These carbon nanotubes reinforce the resin in a way that helps to stop small cracks or fractures in the carbon fiber from growing. This keeps the crack localized, thus prolonging the lifespan of the stick while also keeping it feeling newer, longer. No one likes a twig that noodles out after a few games.
- Stick Weight: 419 grams (senior)
- Personal Thoughts: I was personally a big fan of the original 1X so I was quite enthusiastic to see how Bauer was able to improve on a stick that exceeded my expectations. While I don’t notice a huge difference in weight or balance, the 2016 feels amazing in the hands. No pun intended, the balance point is on point and since it weighs sub-420 grams, it feels featherlight. Performance-wise, I didn’t see the same magnitude of improvement from the 1st Gen to the 2nd Gen like I did going from the APX2 to the 1X. It’s hard to imagine improving to that degree in back to back launches but I can say it does play better and will last you longer. I’m not one to break 37 sticks in a beer league season, so stick durability has not ever been a huge issue for me. If I do start having issues, something has definitely gone awry. The new Fiber Orientation allowed me to load the QRT Taper quicker than before but it felt like I was able to load more energy with the same of effort, which resulted in harder shots with the same amount of energy. Pucks felt like they were literally exploding off of the blade in a hurry. At the senior price point, the stick price rose $30 to $299.99.
- Pop Matrix Technology – CCM did away with the previous ribbed shaft technology and opted for deeply concave sidewalls in the lower portion of the shaft. This new geometry not only delivers an even quicker and more explosive release compared to the 40K, but it actually enhances durability because the shaft corners protect the performance fibers that sit inside of the cavity.
- Ascent Blade – Unlike the 40K that had a pingy and lively puck feel, the Reckoner and it’s new blade construction offers a much more dampened feel in the heel, which makes it even better to dangle and to receive passes with. So if you’re a fan of a soft, dampened puck feel, this is right up your alley. As you go from the heel to the toe, the blade gets stiffer. This “progressive flex profile” in the blade enhances accuracy and precision by keeping the blade face square to the target during the shooting process.
- Technora Aramid Fiber – To better protect the stick from hacks and slashes, CCM reinforced the lower portion of the stick with aerospace-grade fibers that significantly increase durability and longevity.
- Stick Weight – 414 grams (Senior)
- Puck Feel – Dampened
- Personal Thoughts: I really enjoyed using the RibCor Reckoner even though I prefer a more lively blade construction like the Super Tacks. If CCM brought over that Super Tacks blade, I’d be in heaven. The quick shot release provided by the Pop Matrix flex profile is a force to be reckoned with. With the new geometry, players are able to load the stick faster meanwhile the fibers spring back to their original shape, thus creating the deadly quick release. For those out there who are looking for a dampened puck feel and/or those who tend to shoot off of the toe, the Ascent blade with the low kick point is going to be an excellent fit for you.
- Graphene – Sherwood went big this year by utilizing the strongest nano-material ever used in a composite hockey stick, called Graphene. Graphene is 200 times stronger than steel and reinforces the lower 1/3rd of the stick, providing unparalleled strength and durability in the most common area of breakage.
- EKore Technology – Completely unique to the Rekker EK60 and the True Touch T120 is the handmade construction process that takes 8 times longer than the mechanized process. With much more attention to detail, Sherwood is able to eliminate excess material and deformities to such a degree that this EK60 and itsT120 mid kick counterpart are the only two sticks on the market that weigh under 400 grams. Besides weight, the elimination of deformities results in a much more consistent overall design to even further improve responsiveness, balance, and general construction quality.
- VRF.2 Blade – Carried over from the EK15 is the VRF.2 blade core. It features a carbon fiber stringer that runs heel to toe, providing top-notch rigidity and stiffness. It has a lively foam package as well, so players who like a stiff, lively puck feel will certainly enjoy the VRF.2 core.
- Stick Weight – 385 grams (Senior)
- Puck Feel – Lively
- Personal Thoughts: A top-tier, sub 400-gram stick for $199 (senior) is about all you need to know. The value Sherwood is offering for the price is tremendous. Even though 25 grams might not sound like a whole lot of weight, once you use the EK60 for a bit and you try to switch back to a competitor’s stick, the difference is quite significant. I like the weightlessness of the stick especially for defense purposes because its easier to poke check and attack with. In my opinion, the shot release was solid but it didn’t really stand out too much from the rest like the weight does. Sherwood used a traditional fused construction with pro-spec 12K carbon fiber for high-performance and a classic feel. The blade is nice and stiff, a tad pingy but overall really solid too. To me, the price is the biggest factor here. Compared to others, you can get a lighter stick that performance great for almost $100 less.
- Elliptical Taper – Now, this has been in Easton’s arsenal since 2008 but I think it doesn’t get talked about enough. Easton’s unique taper shapes provide players with excellent puck feel, an ultra-low kick point that delivers a lightning quick shot release but it also prevents twisting and torquing during the shooting process. Blade’s tend to open up when you make good contact with the puck but the elliptical shape combats this extremely well.
- ExoRim Blade – This is one of the biggest changes coming from the Velocity V9E. Easton constructed the blade with a stiff, rigid outer frame and a support stringer through the center. The outer frame gave Easton blades a big boost in strength, longevity, and durability that they had been lacking a bit the last few years. The foam package also offers a much more dampened puck feel than previous Easton sticks.
- HyperLite Construction & XTX Resin – This year, Easton switched up their construction process and materials. The XTX Extra Tough Resin Matrix is essentially stronger and better-reinforced epoxy, which helps to keep that “fresh pop feel” for a long time. HyperLite Construction removes excess material and limits deformities in the epoxy and carbon. This minimizes weight, improves consistency, enhances responsiveness and offers a well-balanced feel in the hands.
- Stick Weight – 438 grams (Senior)
- Puck Feel – Dampened
- Personal Thoughts: This one was honestly my least favorite of the bunch but I know a lot of people who have enjoyed using it, so it might just be a personal thing. I appreciate the classic looks of the stick but the blade feel wasn’t there in my opinion. I think since I’m live on the livelier side of the puck feel spectrum, I just couldn’t get comfortable with using it. The big thing for this stick is the upgraded durability throughout the blade and the shaft, which has a been a thorn in Easton’s side the past few seasons. So even though it may not be my favorite, it’s always nice to watch companies listen, learn and adapt. I’ve always liked the concept of the elliptical taper but for my shooting style, it just doesn’t fit well. It feels like I overpower the taper which leads to fluttering, inaccurate shots. Regardless of my thoughts on it, the elliptical taper is a prime example of the awesome innovation and drive that we have to come to love and will be sadly missed.
The battle for #1 low kick point stick is a real close one this year. For overall performance, I’d give the Bauer Vapor 1x and the Warrior Covert QRL a tie for first but since the QRL is $30 cheaper, Warrior gets my vote. Continuing with the topic of price, the EK60 takes third. Sherwood built one of the lightest sticks of all time that now incorporates that crazy strong Graphene material, but it costs $100 less than the typical $299.99 top of the line stick. It hurt putting slotting the CCM Reckoner at #4 because it has a phenomenal shot release, I’m just not a fan of a dampened puck feel. I know a lot of players who do so if you’re one of them and you’re reading this, the Reckoner is going to be your best bet. The Reckoner is a great stick but it just doesn’t suit my personal preference in puck feel, so take that second to last rating with a grain of salt. I can’t say the same thing about the CX that I did about the Reckoner. That special factor just wasn’t there to me even though I’ve talked with a good amount of who people who really like the CX. So that about wraps it up for this year’s low kick stick showdown! Be on the lookout for the mid kick stick showdown and buying guide that will be published shortly. Leave a comment below and
- Warrior Covert QRL Stick
- Bauer Vapor 1X Stick (2016)
- Sherwood Rekker EK60 Stick
- CCM RibCor Reckoner Stick
- Easton Stealth CX Stick