Lake Tahoe Blue swept by Missoula in first road trip
Lake Tahoe Blue at Butte
Friday, 6 p.m.
Saturday, 6 p.m.
Sunday, 1 p.m.
MISSOULA, Mont. — The Lake Tahoe Blue hockey team’s second series of the season served as a big learning experience. On the road for the first time, the Blue were swept by the Missoula Maulers in a three-game series last weekend at Glacier Ice Arena.
“It was a good weekend of figuring out how to play the game,” Blue head coach Mike Richardson said. “Playing at home and playing on the road are two completely different things — and Missoula is a tough place to play. They have a good team, they do things the right way and they have a seventh man.”
In the series opener Friday, Lake Tahoe lost to Missoula 6-2. Forwards Yanik Frisch and Hunter Lovdokken each scored on the power play in the loss.
“The first night was definitely a learning experience going up against a team that is pretty much returning all junior hockey players,” Richardson said. “They played a very physical game — we got beat up Friday night.”
On Saturday night, the Blue struck first but fell to the Maulers 6-3. Less than two minutes into the game, Lake Tahoe forward David Raus opened the scoring with a goal assisted by Lovdokken and forward Brandon Aab.
Missoula scored with 25 seconds left in the first period, and the teams went into the break tied. In the first 1:18 of the second period, the Maulers scored twice to make the score 3-1 — they took the lead with a goal 11 seconds after the second period face-off.
“We need to quickly figure out how to deal with momentum swings — when we give up goals, we give up goals in pairs or threes,” Richardson said. “A team scores on us, and instead of going back and playing the puck drops and they score on us again.”
Forty-eight seconds into the third period, Lake Tahoe forward Charlie Hammerback scored a goal on the power play assisted by forwards Julius Bauermeister and Shaemus Stoyle to make it a 3-2 game. But Missoula answered with three straight goals en route to the victory — Blue forward Vladislav Polyashov capped the scoring later in the third period with a goal assisted by Hammerback and forward Aksel Friberg.
“It was a better game because we were competitive, but then we got stupid and we started taking penalties — it was kind of a parade to the penalty box,” Richardson said.
Lake Tahoe delivered its best performance of the series in Sunday’s finale, a 9-4 loss. The Blue trailed 3-0 after the first period and rallied to tie the game in the second before Missoula took control — the Maulers scored three times in each period as they completed the sweep.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy — they’re a fast-paced team and we’re learning how to play the game at this level,” Richardson said.
Forward Kristers Seps got the Blue on the board 2:47 into the second period with a goal assisted by Polyashov and Lovdokken. Lake Tahoe then scored a pair of power play goals to pull even — Polayshov made it 3-2 off assists from Raus and Bauermeister with 15:33 remaining in the period, and Seps tied the game with his second off assists from Aab and Bauermeister less than four minutes later.
Missoula answered with three goals in the second period and two more in a 14-second span in the third period to take an 8-3 lead with less than 16 minutes to play. Friberg found the back of the net with 2:05 left — Missoula scored its ninth goal just more than a minute later.
“When we were able to execute on some of the adjustments we did make, things worked really well,” Richardson said. “We’re learning and we’re a pretty competitive group — we just need to figure out the mental stuff.”
After its second series, Lake Tahoe has a 1-5 record and is tied with Butte (Mont.) at the bottom of the WSHL Northwest Division standings. The Blue meet the Cobras this weekend, with both teams sitting on two points.
“This week of practice has focused on polishing up some of our stuff — we definitely took five steps forward and we’re learning,” Richardson said. “We have another chance to go play, another chance to get better — and we’ll see how it goes.”
With two straight road series against Montana opponents, Lake Tahoe decided to stay in Big Sky Country this past week to prepare for the Cobras. The Blue started their three-game set with Butte on Friday, and the series resumes Saturday and Sunday.
“It was actually a really healthy thing for us — we’ve been able to do a lot of team bonding,” Richardson said. “After our day schedule we’re still together — we’ve visited some pretty cool places in Montana and hanging out at the hotel has been fun.”
Lake Tahoe returns home next weekend for a three-game series against the Seattle Totems at South Lake Tahoe Ice Arena. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and Sunday’s series finale starts at 2 p.m.
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