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SLT Ice Arena set to host Pac-8 hockey championships

Anthony Gentile
agentile@tahoedailytribune.com

2015 Pac-8 Hockey Championships

at South Lake Tahoe Ice Arena

Friday

(3) Oregon vs. (6) California, 4:30 p.m.

(4) Washington vs. (5) UCLA, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday

Oregon-California winner vs. (2) USC, 1 p.m.

Washington-UCLA winner vs. (1) Utah, 4 p.m.

Sunday

Championship, noon

Tickets: $7 Friday and Saturday, $10 Sunday

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — This weekend, the puck will drop on South Lake Tahoe Ice Arena’s biggest event in the four years since being taken over by Tahoe Sports and Entertainment. The arena will host the Pac-8 Championships Friday through Sunday, a club hockey tournament featuring big-name collegiate schools from the West.

“It’s a huge opportunity, it’s something that we’d like to be doing more of and it’s what we campaigned on when we acquired the arena,” Tahoe Sports and Entertainment owner Van Oleson said. “It’s serious hockey.”

The Pac-8 Conference features eight schools that compete in the Pac-12 Conference for their NCAA sports — Arizona State, California, Oregon, UCLA, USC, Utah, Washington and Washington State. It is part of the American Collegiate Hockey Association’s Division II, the second of three tiers of club hockey nationwide.

“The level of hockey is fantastic and growing,” Oleson said. “These would be the candidate schools if the West builds out.”

In recent seasons, the Pac-8 Conference has shown its quality on the regional and national stages. After winning the conference championship last season, Arizona State went on to the national title — and founding schools Arizona and Colorado are now competing in ACHA Division I.

Pac-8 hockey is a facet of the sport’s recent surge in popularity in the West. The NHL operating three teams in California combined with the AHL set to add five California teams — Stockton, San Jose, Bakersfield, Los Angeles and San Diego — for the 2015-16 season represent that growth on the professional scale.

“You can see the progression of the league and the opportunity for the West,” Oleson said. “There’s a whole progression here and a whole framework.”

The three-day, single-elimination Pac-8 tournament gets underway with the first round Friday night. Third-seeded Oregon (6-4 in conference) faces sixth-seeded California (3-9) at 4:30 p.m. and fourth-seeded Washington (5-11) plays fifth-seeded UCLA (5-10) at 7:30 p.m.

Semifinals will take place Saturday. Second-seeded USC (10-5) meets the Oregon-California winner at 1 p.m. and top-seeded Utah (7-1) plays the winner of Washington-UCLA at 4 p.m.

The semifinal winners face off in the conference championship Sunday at noon. Regular season conference champion Arizona State (9-1) will not play in the tournament due to internal disciplinary issues.

This year marks the first time in the conference’s 19-year history that its tournament will be played at a neutral site. The member schools bring with them national name recognition, an important aspect in the growth of the arena.

“What’s good about this is the brand recognition,” Oleson said. “There’s so much more of an identity to this than there is in some of the other programs — it’s galvanizing.”

Along with becoming home to the Lake Tahoe Blue, the Pac-8 tournament is Tahoe Sports and Entertainment’s biggest acquisition since taking over the rights to the arena. In addition to providing positive economic impact on the South Shore, Oleson said the tournament will help TSE with the other elements of its mission.

“We campaigned on taking this ice arena and featuring a destination event agenda,” Oleson said. “It lets us do more locally with our community service efforts.”

Tickets are $7 on Friday and Saturday, and $10 on Sunday — tournament passes are available online for $30. For more information on the tournament, visit http://www.pac8hockey.com or http://www.tahoearena.com.


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