Icemen get big win against top-ranked IceCats
Special to the Tribune
The Lake Tahoe Icemen earned their first-ever victory over the Idaho IceCats and showed they can play with anybody in the Western States Tier II Hockey League.
The Icemen lost two out of three on their home ice and dropped into third place, but even in the losses they were competitive, until the lights literally went out in the series finale.
The last time these two teams met in Idaho in October, the Icemen kept things tight in the series opener until suffering a loss in the final six seconds. Lake Tahoe was never able to build the same momentum in either of the next two games and were swept.
This recent series, Dec. 14-16, started in nearly the same way. But instead of a momentum killer, Thursday night’s loss was followed by an Icemen victory.
Icemen goaltender Maximilian Haselbacher was the hero Friday night, stopping a phenomenal 73 shots from the frustrated IceCats.
Lake Tahoe forward Paul Frys extended his scoring streak to nine games, adding five points (1 goal, 4 assists) during the three-game series. Frys is in the top 10 in scoring for the entire WSHL.
Thursday, IceCats win 3-2
The teams played even through the first 20 minutes with neither scoring on similar shots on goal.
The IceCats quickly changed that with a pair of goals in the second period.
With the Icemen offense barely alive in the first two periods, they turned it around and dominated the third.
Danylo Moroz and Paul Frys scored to get Tahoe even and it looked like they might take the lead shortly after equalizing. But Idaho’s Russell Haren scored the game-winner with 3 minutes, 54 seconds left, firing a bullet from the point while losing his balance.
The IceCats led in penalty minutes with 18 in minors to the Icemen’s 10 minutes in minors. IceCat goaltender Tyler Matthews allowed two goals on 32 shots and Icemen keeper Wade Conlan made 39 saves on 42 shots.
Friday, Lake Tahoe wins 4-3 (2 OT)
The game was preceded by a moment of silence for the late Isabella Higo, the beloved mother of Icemen forward Justin “JP” Poirier.
The Icemen jerseys were adorned with patches bearing her initials — a surprise to Poirer, who was “emotional.”
“I didn’t know they were going to do that,” he said. “It really meant a lot to me.”
The IceCats came out working double time. They had 22 shots on net in the first period to the Icemen’s six, but Tahoe still managed to make it on the board twice.
The first goal by Tahoe was disallowed due to a dislodged net, but under a minute later Tanner Turcotte scored one that counted. IceCats goaltender Jacob Hough, allowed two goals in the first on only eight shots. Haselbacher made 22 saves on 23 shots.
Haselbacher made multiple acrobatic saves in the second period against a 27-shot onslaught, refusing to allow a single goal.
Tahoe added another to the scoreboard, bringing the score to 3-1 at the end of the second. The IceCats’ annoyance with the score was obvious, and there were multiple attempts to draw Tahoe into penalties, the most blatant resulted in Matthew Kindred being ejected from the game.
The IceCats scored two goals in the third period and almost had the game-winner with 12 seconds left.
The inhalation by the Tahoe crowd was audible as the IceCats put another one into the back of the net but the referee ruled no goal due to a crease violation. Tahoe was still in it and had a chance in overtime.
Haselbacher stayed true to his game and turned away all four shots he faced in the first overtime.
Double overtime saw two shots from the IceCats, but Tahoe would only need one.
Ilja Cetvertak scored the game winner with just 33 seconds left to help the Icemen record their biggest win.
Hough allowed four goals on 32 shots and Haselbacher, in the best game he’s ever played for the Icemen, had an unheard of 73 saves on 76 shots though 69 minutes of play. The Icemen played a clean game, only pulling eight minutes in minor penalties. The IceCats had 24 minutes in penalties.
Saturday, IceCats win 9-4
The IceCats didn’t allow Friday’s defeat to slow them down in the series finale. Idaho scored two goals before Tahoe got on the board. The game went to first intermission with Idaho leading 3-1.
Goaltender Lanny Blitt was pulled in favor of Conlan. Tahoe scored two goals in the second period to tie the game, one from Poirier, in his first game back from a shoulder injury. Conlan kept the IceCats out until a widespread power outage put a halt to play at 4:43. The lights were out for almost 20 minutes, during which time the IceCats’ head coach must have had something incredible to say. When the lights came on, the IceCats put three into the back of the net before the end of the period. The third period saw one from the Icemen and three more from the Icecats.
Blitt had 17 saves on 20 shots in his first showing for the Icemen. Conlan made 35 saves on 41 shots.
The IceCats (22-2-1) had 20 minutes in minor penalties and the Icemen had 32 minutes, including a 10-minute major for unsportsmanlike conduct.
IceCats took home five points overall and Tahoe kept two of the hardest won points in Icemen history.
The Icemen (14-13-3) are participating in the Western States Shootout this week in Las Vegas. They’ll face the Superior RoughRiders in game 1, the CPJHL Select Team in ggame 2 and the Fresno Monsters in game 3.
These games will count toward the season standings and are an opportunity for the players to be seen by college coaches from all over the country.
The IceCats will be back in Tahoe in February to face-off against the Icemen.