Lake Tahoe Blue swept at Butte, showing improvement
Lake Tahoe Blue vs. Seattle
When: Friday 7:30 p.m., Saturday 7:30 p.m., Sunday 2 p.m.
Where: South Lake Tahoe Ice Arena
Tickets: $10 adults, $7 students, $5 children 10 and under
BUTTE, Mont. — For the second straight weekend, victories were elusive for the Lake Tahoe Blue hockey club. The Blue were swept by Butte in a three-game set at Butte Community Ice Center, dropping three close games — including an overtime loss in the series finale last Sunday.
“We’re excited about where were heading — now it’s just a matter of sticking to the process and getting better,” Blue head coach Mike Richardson said.
On Sunday, Lake Tahoe rallied from a three-goal deficit but eventually fell short in a 5-4 overtime loss. In defeat, the Blue ended a stretch of seven matches without points.
Forward Julius Bauermeister forced overtime with a goal assisted by forward Brandon Aab and defenseman Wesley Callens with 1:56 left to play in the third period. The goal was Bauermeister’s fourth of the series — he also had three assists over the three games.
Twenty-five seconds into overtime, Butte forward Anton Zimmer scored his third goal of the game to lift the Cobras to victory. For Lake Tahoe, the goal meant an eighth straight defeat.
“We were lackadaisical in some areas our defensive zone coverage and it came back to bite us,” Richardson said. “It was such an up-and-down game — to tie it up was an extreme high, and then to drop the puck in overtime and then have them go straight down to score on the first shot was kind of a low blow.”
The Blue trailed Butte 4-1 midway through the second period and forward David Raus scored goals in the second and third period to spark Lake Tahoe’s comeback. Forward Charlie Hammerback scored the Lake Tahoe’s first goal of the game off assists from forward Sheamus Stoyle and Raus — the first-period tally came on the power play.
“If we can work that relentlessly and that hard all the time, we’re going to be something special,” Richardson said. “But we have to get that through our group — there is no shift off.”
Forward Vladislav Polyashov assisted Raus’ first goal. For the third time in the series, Lake Tahoe had a decided advantage in shots but fell short on the scoreboard.
“We have to capitalize — we can be a little bit tougher around the net and we can bear down a little bit more,” Richardson said. “When we get out chances, we have to score — we’re working really hard to make those adjustments.”
On Saturday, the Blue lost to the Cobras 7-5 in a back-and-forth contest. Lake Tahoe scored in each period, but never had the lead in defeat.
Lake Tahoe trailed 2-1 after the first period, with forward Aksel Friberg scoring in between a pair of Butte goals. Friberg’s goal came with 6:07 left in the first period, and was assisted by Raus and forward Steven Colombo.
Twenty seconds into the second period, Bauermeister tied the game with a goal assisted by Raus and forward Hunter Lovdokken. Butte answered with two goals before Polyashov scored a power play goal assisted by Stoyle and Hammerback with 7:14 left in the second period — and the Cobras scored short handed in the last minute of the frame to take a 4-2 lead into the third period.
Raus and Bauermeister each scored in the third period, but Lake Tahoe didn’t get closer than one goal en route to defeat. Hammerback and Polyashov assisted Raus’ goal, while Aab and Raus had helpers on Bauermeister’s goal — Raus finished the series with five goals and four assists.
“Both of them are great leaders, both of them pushed the pace and both of them created good momentum for us — they’re both go-to guys,” Richardson said of Raus and Bauermeister.
On Friday, Lake Tahoe lost the series opener to Butte by a 7-4 margin. The Blue gave up four first-period goals and couldn’t recover from the slow start.
“Something that has been an issue with us has been really poor starts — it always takes us a couple of minutes to get the legs going and we can’t do that,” Richardson said. “We have to be a 60-minute team.”
Raus scored both of the Blue’s first-period goals Friday, answering a Butte goal each time. With just less than 16 minutes to play in the opening period, Raus found the back of the net off assists from Hammerback and Bauermeister — less than five minutes later, he tied the game 2-2 with a short-handed goal assisted by Bauermeister.
Butte scored twice more in the first period, and had a 5-2 lead at the second intermission. Forward Kristers Seps cut into that lead with a power play goal assisted by Lovdokken and Friberg with 11:39 left in the game, and Bauermeister scored off an assist from Aab late in the third period.
Prior to squaring off in last weekend’s three-game series, Lake Tahoe and Butte made a deal off the ice. Last Thursday, the Blue sent the rights to defenseman Clinton Hildebrand to the Cobras for future considerations — including defenseman Tyler Wicks, a 6-foot-3-inch, 220-pound enforcer from Ottawa, Canada that could make his Blue debut as soon as Friday.
“He brings a really mean presence to us,” Richarsdon said. “We went into some interesting situations in Missoula and Butte where we didn’t have someone to protect us — Tyler is a good-old Canadian boy that brings a physical, intimidating style.
“You never like doing this kind of stuff, but we feel it made our hockey club a little bit better and a little bit tighter.”
After last weekend’s series, Lake Tahoe (1-7-1-0) sits at the bottom of the WSHL Northwest Division standings with three points. The Blue returns home this weekend to play fourth-place Seattle (6-4-1-0, 11 pts.) at South Lake Tahoe Ice Arena — Friday and Saturday’s games start at 7:30 p.m. with Sunday’s series finale scheduled for 2 p.m.
“I’m excited about where the team is headed,” Richardson said. “As soon as we get out of this little slump, I think we’re going to take off — I’m hoping Friday night is that night.
“We’re looking forward to being at home in front of our fans — we’re going to work hard to entertain everyone.”