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Tahoe Grizzlies Squirts take Norcal Championship

Provided to the TribuneThe Tahoe Grizzlies Squirts (ages 9-10) celebrate after becoming the first ice hockey team in Tahoe's history to win the North Division during the Northern California playoffs March 19-20.
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SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – The Tahoe Grizzlies Squirts (ages 9-10) took down three of Northern California’s top youth hockey organizations at the Northern California playoffs March 19-20 to become the first ice hockey team in Tahoe’s history to win the North Division.

With preliminary round wins over the Roseville Capital Thunder and the Santa Clara Blackhawks, the Grizzlies battled their way into the championship final to play the San Jose Jr. Sharks.

In the championship game the Grizzlies took the early lead on a goal by Lucas Demsar, of South Lake Tahoe. But the Jr. Sharks quickly countered. Forward Zach Dill, of South Lake Tahoe, scored late in the first period to put the Grizzlies up 2-1, but again the Jr. Sharks countered tying the game 2-2. With four seconds to go in the second period, forward Mickey Sullivan, of South Lake Tahoe, broke away and beat the Jr. Shark’s goaltender with a hard shot to the high corner sending the Grizzlies into the third period on top 3-2. That lead however, would quickly fade as the Jr. Sharks not only tied the game, but went ahead 4-3. The Grizzlies defense Max Mueller, Leah Marino, Nathan Moffat, and Axel Sorensen, goaltending of Nick Ilvento, (all of South Lake Tahoe), and the back checking of Wesley Steinkopff, of Tahoe City, and Nick Cruz, of Incline Village, and Tucker Cannon, and Jaxon Kennedy, also of South Lake Tahoe, held the Jr. Sharks to just a one goal lead through intense pressure low in the Grizzlies zone.



Down but not out, the Grizzlies coaching staff pulled the goaltender with 53 seconds left in the game, and placed an extra forward on the ice. This strategy flustered the Jr. Sharks, and pressure by Grizzlies’ forward Cameron Johnson, of South Lake Tahoe, produced a critical turnover. Mickey Sullivan took advantage of the turnover, scooped up the loose puck, broke in on the Jr. Sharks goaltender, and tied the game with 20 seconds left to force sudden death overtime. The Grizzlies, now given a second chance at the title, were absolutely recharged. With 10:47 remaining in the first overtime, Tahoe won a critical face off in the Jr. Sharks zone, pressed the puck back to winger Kevin Lehmann, of South Lake Tahoe, who resisted the onslaught of two Sharks attackers. Lehmann then completed his pass to open defenseman Axel Sorensen. Sorensen high in the zone moved right, took two strides, and drilled a shot through several players beating the Jr. Sharks goaltender.

The championship win places the Grizzlies as the No. 1 ranked seed for the California State Championships to be held in San Jose the weekend of April 8-10 where the Grizzlies will face the Southern California teams of the No. 2 ranked Bakersfield Dragons, No. 3 ranked Valencia Express, and compete again against the No. 4 ranked San Jose Jr. Sharks.



The Grizzlies are coached by Head Coach Stephen Rooney and Assistant Coaches; Jim Marino, Bailey Johnson, and Scott Vogelgesang.

The Tahoe Grizzlies Pee Wees (ages 11-12) also competed in the NORCAL playoffs over the past weekend. They tied their first game on Saturday 2-2 against the San Jose Jr. Shark Pee Wees. Later in the afternoon they lost to the Vacaville Jets.

Getting into the final championship game was all up to the result in the Sunday morning game against the Fresno Falcons. The Pee Wee Grizzlies lost 6-2 in a hard-fought battle and their season was over.


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