Lake Tahoe Blue sweeps Seattle, ends early-season slide
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — In its second home series of the season, the Lake Tahoe Blue hockey team brought a resounding end to its early struggles. The Blue swept the visiting Seattle Totems in a three-game set at South Lake Tahoe Ice Arena last weekend, delivering wins in three different fashions to end an eight-game losing streak.
“For us as a team to get the results, it just proves to us that we are doing something right and what we’re doing is working,” Blue head coach Mike Richardson said. “To do it at home was pretty cool.”
In the series opener Friday, Lake Tahoe rode a fast start to a 7-2 victory — its first since the opening series of the season. The Blue set the tone early, with forward Julius Bauermeister scoring off an assist from newly acquired forward Alexander Lobachev 23 seconds after the opening face-off as part of a four-goal first period.
“I was really proud of our group — we’ve been in that eight-game funk, so to come out and work hard definitely paid off,” Richardson said. “Finally the hockey gods were on our side a little bit.”
Forward David Raus put the Blue ahead 2-0 five minutes later, scoring on an assist from Lobachev. Lake Tahoe killed three penalties after taking a two-goal lead — the third penalty kill was highlighted by a Bauermeister shorthanded goal with 3:22 left, a wrist shot after he received a pass from Raus on the break.
Lake Tahoe capped its first-period outburst with a goal from forward Vladislav Polyashov with 46 seconds left. Polyashov’s goal assisted by forward Kristers Seps and defenseman Nickolas Bakey made it 4-0 and sent the Blue into the intermission with all the momentum.
“We wanted to have a good start,” Richardson said. “We haven’t had one of those yet this year — and to come out ahead 4-0 after the first was a big momentum boost.”
In the second period, forward Sheamus Stoyle put in a loose puck in front of the net to make the score 5-0. Lake Tahoe had a 5-1 lead after two periods and iced the game with a pair of power play goals on a Seattle major penalty — Defensemen Wesley Callens and Hunter Lovodokken found the back of the net less than three minutes apart.
Blue goaltender Nick Bretzger stopped 32 shots in Friday’s win as Lake Tahoe allowed the least goals since its season opener. Lake Tahoe put 50 shots on net and pressured Seattle throughout the game.
“We really needed this one — from now on this is it and we’re going on a big winning streak,” Bretzger said. “This is the start.”
On Saturday, the Blue broke free from a back-and-forth game with four unanswered goals in a 7-4 victory. Lake Tahoe tied the game late in the second period, and scored three goals in the third to take its second straight game.
“It was a very tactical, trapping game — there were a lot of different sets plays that Seattle was doing and we had to counter it,” Richardson said. “We stuck to it, we kept on chipping away and working — and we got the result again.”
Lobachev opened the scoring with an unassisted power play goal midway through the first period. The Moscow, Russia native scored seven points in his first series with the Blue — he was the second player involved in Lake Tahoe’s trade with Butte two weeks ago.
“He brings a lot of dynamic skill and a good presence in the locker room,” Richardson said.
Seattle scored twice to open the second period, but Lake Tahoe answered with a pair of goals to re-take the lead — Polyashov scored off assists from Stoyle and Seps with 11:46 left in the period and Bauermeister found the back of the net off assists from Lobachev and Raus less than four minutes later.
The Totems took a 3-2 lead 49 seconds after Bauermeister’s goal — and Lake Tahoe answered again before the second intermission to tie the game.
Raus scored shorthanded with 17:39 left in the third period to put Lake Tahoe in front for good. Raus and forward Ruslan Cernych added third-period goals to help the Blue win going away.
“The game started to open up and that’s when the scoring started coming out,” Richardson said.
In Sunday’s series finale, Lake Tahoe rallied from a three-goal deficit to win 5-3 and complete the sweep. Seattle raced out to a 3-0 lead midway through the first period, but the Blue responded with five unanswered goals — including three in the third period.
“We had to crawl back — I was very impressed with the relentless work ethic to get back in it,” Richardson said.
Raus got Lake Tahoe on the board with 6:59 left in the first period with a goal assisted by Lobachev and Bauermeister. Bauermeister scored the lone goal of the second period, and the Blue trailed the Totems 3-2 at the second intermission.
In the third period, forward Aksel Friberg tied the game with with 5:31 left on a power play goal assisted by Seps and forward Brandon Aab. Lobachev scored the go-ahead goal 78 seconds later, and Bauermeister added an unassisted insurance goal with 43 seconds left.
“This gets everyone’s attention — if you sweep a team like that, people look and people notice,” Richardson said. “Right away it brings a little bit more attention to us.”
In addition to Lobachev, defenseman Tyler Wicks made his debut for Lake Tahoe last weekend. Wicks appeared in Friday and Saturday’s games, with 16 penalty minutes on Saturday.
“Friday night he brought in a big presence to us and we could all feel it — you have someone looking out for you and he’s an intimidating person to play against,” Richardson said. “He’s definitely a huge asset for us and we’re glad to have him.”
With the sweep, Lake Tahoe (4-7-1-0) jumped to fifth place in the WSHL Northwest Division standings. The Blue’s nine points have them tied with Whitefish — Seattle (13 points) fell to fourth place.
“I looked at the previous three games before this weekend and I thought we deserved the better outcome — we just didn’t get the bounces,” Richardson said.
Lake Tahoe has a week off before beginning a stretch of six straight games against Idaho. The Blue travel to play the Junior Steelheads at McCall Ice Center Nov. 7-9 and host them at South Lake Tahoe Ice Arena Nov. 14-16.
“It’s about getting better again,” Richardson said. “We are well aware that that’s not going to be very easy — there’s a lot of stuff we have to clean up before Idaho.”