Icemen cometh: South Lake Tahoe junior hockey franchise starts fresh in third season
In its third season, South Lake Tahoe’s junior hockey franchise has a new look and a fresh start. The Tahoe Icemen began their 2015-16 campaign last weekend, and they make their home debut Friday, Sept. 25, at South Lake Tahoe Ice Arena.
“We’re pretty pumped,” Icemen head coach and general manager Tom Maroste said. “These kids are going to get it and it’s going to be really fun to watch.”
When the puck drops Friday night at SLT Ice Arena, it will usher in a new era for hockey in South Lake Tahoe. After spending two seasons as Lake Tahoe Blue, the franchise got a new name, logo and colors — the Icemen were born.
“We’re excited about all the new branding with the team name,” Maroste said.
Maroste was hired to run the Icemen in May, and he brings a decade of coaching experience to the franchise. He spent the last two years coaching the Yellowstone Quake (Cody, Wyo.) of the NA3HL, a Tier III hockey league — his coaching staff includes Chris Collins and Clint Malarchuk.
“It’s nice to have the backing of an ownership group that wants to make it for the players,” Maroste said of the Icemen organization. “There are hockey people running the team.”
The Icemen’s 22-player roster features three former Quake players, including team captains Zach Forrest, Taylor Garner and John Scherer — the team’s fourth captain is Kevin Hodsdon. The lone holdover from last year’s Blue team is Tre Dolezel.
“We’re an all-around team,” Scherer said. “We have grinders, kids with speed, playmakers, scorers — pretty much everything.”
“It’s a good group. It’s pretty much a brand new team, and we have a lot of chemistry for what we have so far,” Garner added.
Tahoe opened its 2015 season last weekend, Sept. 18-19, on the road against the Vancouver Rangers. The Icemen fell to the Rangers 14-3 and 10-1 on consecutive nights, with Garner, Scherer, Edgar Gonzalez and Phillipe Pepin each scoring a goal apiece.
“It was a wake-up call for the whole thing,” Maroste said. “Now they realize that they can’t take a shift off — it’s about winning every shift.”
Maroste said the Icemen’s biggest strength is overall team speed, which should translate into scoring chances. Tahoe plans to play fast with puck movement, especially in the altitude on its home ice.
“We’re looking to drive the net, we need better passing, faster movement,” Hodsdon said. “Our main goal is drive the net and bring it to the net.”
Tahoe will once again play in the Western States Hockey League, but the AAU league’s move to Tier II status means it will feature a higher level of hockey with players between 16 and 20 years old. The Icemen play in the Northwest Division, which features the Butte Cobras, Idaho Jr. Steelheads, Missoula Maulers, Seattle Totems, Southern Oregon Spartans, Whitefish Wolverines and expansion Vancouver Rangers.
The Icemen make their home debut against Missoula on Friday at 7:30 p.m. The three-game series at SLT Ice Arena resumes on Saturday, Sept. 26, at 7:30 p.m. and concludes Sunday, Sept. 27, at 2 p.m.
“We can use all the fans we can get,” Forrest said. “It’s always nice in a town like this with a ton of fans and a great community — it brings us all together.”