Lake Tahoe Blue beat Whitefish in season opener, 7-1
The Lake Tahoe Blue dropped the puck on its 2014 season last Friday — and started off on a winning note. The Blue beat Whitefish 7-1 in their season opener at South Lake Tahoe Ice Arena, a victory that preceded two losses in the weekend series.
“It was a good weekend — we learned about our team and now it’s just about getting it better,” said Blue head coach Mike Richardson. “Some of the details that we’ve stressed we were executing, and we could see it. Now it’s just about polishing up our game and making ourselves better.”
In its season opener, Lake Tahoe dominated the Wolverines en route to a lopsided 7-1 victory. The Blue didn’t disappoint the home crowd of nearly 300 people, racing out to a two-goal lead after the first period and never looking back.
“We came out pretty amped — it was the big home opener and something we’ve been working really hard for. We came out and did our thing,” Richardson said. “We were in control of that game and we opened up the season really well.”
Lake Tahoe opened the scoring 63 seconds into the game on an unassisted goal by forward David Raus. Midway through the first period, forward Charlie Hammerback scored his first of two goals on the evening, a power play goal assisted by forward Aksel Frieberg.
Hammerback made it 3-0 less than three minutes into the second period, scoring on the power play with a goal assisted by Raus. Whitefish got on the board 18 seconds later, but the Blue scored twice more in the period — goals by Friberg and forward Sheamus Stoyle — to take a 5-1 lead into the second intermission.
In the third period, forward Yanik Frisch found the back of the net on the power play with 14:37 remaining and forward Nicholas Sprake capped the scoring with an empty-net, shorthanded goal four minutes later. Raus finished with a team-high three points and 14 penalty minutes in the win — forwards Edgardo Cambari and Kristers Seps each added an assist.
In Friday’s win, Lake Tahoe goaltender Nick Bretzger stopped 48 of the 49 shots he faced. The Blue were outshot 49-41 by Whitefish.
On Saturday night, Lake Tahoe came out flat and suffered its first defeat of the season. The Blue lost to Whitefish 4-1, with the visitors scoring three unanswered goals over the last two periods.
“We had no heart, we didn’t compete and it was frustrating,” Richardson said. “We were able to dominate so well on Friday, and we didn’t show the same on Saturday.”
Whitefish opened the scoring midway through the first period — and Lake Tahoe produced an answer later in the frame. Blue forward Vladislav Polyashov scored with 3:09 left in the opening period make the score 1-1 — and both teams went into the first intermission tied.
Polyashov’s goal was the only one Lake Tahoe would get against Wolverines goaltender Joakim Hidestrand, who made 27 stops in the win. Whitefish scored twice in a 24-second span in the second period to take a 3-1 lead, and added a fourth goal late in the third period.
“We talk a lot about being an every day team and every day players, and Saturday night we definitely weren’t there,” Richardson said. “That was an extreme disappointment to us — we’re not hiding it and our players know it. That was the ultimate low.”
Lake Tahoe bounced back on Sunday afternoon, but couldn’t avoid a second straight defeat to Whitefish. The Blue lost 5-1, dropping the game and the series to the Wolverines.
“We didn’t win, but we competed and it was a strong game,” Richardson said.
Whitefish opened the scoring with 6:26 left in the first period on a goal from defenseman Danny Roe. Roe scored a second goal later in the period, and completed a hat trick with a third-period goal that made it 4-0.
Despite putting 40 shots on goal in Sunday’s loss, Lake Tahoe couldn’t get one across the line until the game’s final minute. Raus helped the Blue avoid the shutout, scoring a goal with 48 seconds left assisted by defenseman Wesley Callens and forward Hunter Lovdokken.
Richardson said Lake Tahoe’s special teams during the opening weekend were the biggest positive. The Blue converted 19 percent of their power play opportunities during the three games — including going 4-for-5 Friday night — and had a penalty kill percentage of 93 percent (13-for-14).
After its first series of the season, Lake Tahoe sits sixth in the WSHL Northwest Division standings with two points. The Blue have a weekend off before returning to action, and Richardson said the team will spend extra time during practices working on polishing the details within its system and point coverage on defense.
The Blue begin a three-game series at Missoula on Friday, Oct. 10 and will stay in Montana after to prepare for their three-game set at Butte that begins the following Friday. Lake Tahoe’s next home series begins Oct. 24 against Seattle.
“It’s a huge opportunity for us to do some team bonding in a different area,” Richardson said. “We’re pretty comfortable here, we all love it here — but to get out of your comfort zone together for a little bit is a good thing.”