It’s been a long road for the Grizzlies, but the South Tahoe bantam hockey team has pushed into second place overall as the finish line nears.
The Tahoe Grizzlies, of the South Tahoe Amateur Hockey Association, skated their way into the top of the playoff pack at the Vacaville Ice Sports arena March 23-24. The second-place finish qualified the team for the elite California State Hockey Championships in San Jose on April 12-14.
Nine months ago, the championship berth and the season in general were more than long shot. A total of seven kids showed up for tryouts. Several players jumped ship to other teams, and the Grizzlies were told they didn’t have enough players to field a team.
To save the season, the Grizzlies went in search of players. They found a few who were cut from other youth hockey associations in Roseville and Stockton, and the boys started piecing together a season.
As the season progress, the boys started winning. Championships, however, were still a long shot. The boys had to make it through the playoff gauntlet first.
The Grizzlies started their playoff run with a solid 3-1 win against the Redwood City Black Stars on Saturday, March 23. They rode the momentum into the evening during a nail-biter against the Santa Clara Black Hawks. In the end, the Grizzlies managed to roar past the Black Hawks with a score of 3-2. The win guaranteed the Grizzlies a spot in the championship game the next night.
The Grizzlies faced the Fresno Junior Monsters on Sunday, March 24. The Fresno Junior Monsters were hungrier than the Grizzlies and won 3-1. The win propelled the Monsters to the championship game that night, setting the stage for a Grizzly versus Monster championship rematch
The championship game was a hard fought game. The Monsters dominated in the first period, taking a 2-0 early lead. The Grizzlies roared back and tied the game at 2-2. The Monsters, however, responded with two more goals to win the Northern California Championship.
“The team play was the key to their success. The defense was a brick wall and the offense scored at critical times,” said Grizzlies coach Ken Wood. “We look forward to competing at the state level.”
The Grizzlies ended the season as runner up, but will meet the Monsters again at the California Amateur Hockey Association’s annual State Championships held in San Jose, Calif., from April 12 - 14. Los Angeles’ California Heat and the San Diego Gulls will also be competing.