Tahoe Icemen notch first victory, take one of three against Seattle
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — The Tahoe Icemen hockey team knew its first win of the 2015-16 season was coming. And on their home ice Friday, Dec. 11, the Icemen finally delivered it.
Tahoe beat the Seattle Totems 3-2 at South Lake Tahoe Ice Arena, with a goal from Artsiom Surmach late in the third period securing the win. For the Icemen, the victory ended a 20-game losing streak to start the season.
“It was like we won the cup without the cup,” Icemen coach Chris Collins said. “It was big for the guys, it was big for the team and it was big for everybody.”
Surmach scored the game-winner with 2:52 left in the third period off assists from Maksim Akimychau and Taylor Garner. As the final seconds ticked away, Tahoe ended up on the right side of the scoreboard for the first time in the campaign — including last season, the franchise had lost 28 straight games.
“Art got a pass in the slot and shot it low left, it hit off the post and went right in,” Collins said. “It was textbook hockey.”
Seattle opened the scoring 33 seconds after the opening faceoff on Friday, but the Icemen answered midway through the first period. John Moffat scored off assists from Phillipe Pepin and Seth Hatley, and the game was tied 1-1 at the first intermission.
“It was a physical game,” Collins said. “We bring a lot of physicality to the ice and they have some big boys who were trying to counter.”
Austin Naylor found the back of the net midway through the second period, scoring his first career junior hockey goal to give Tahoe a 2-1 lead. The Totems tied the game just more than a minute later, and it stayed that way until Surmach’s game-winner.
“We know how to win,” Collins said. “We just have to figure it out more often and make it a consistent thing, not a fluke.”
On Saturday, Dec. 12, Tahoe and Seattle played another back-and-forth game. But the second game of the series went the Totems’ way, with the visitors winning 4-3 on a goal from Duncan Long with 1:38 left in regulation.
“We brought confidence into the first period of this game,” Collins said. “In the second period it got a little slow, but then we picked it up again in the third.”
Tahoe had a 1-0 lead after at the first intermission, opening the scoring with a goal from Colton Lanzowski assisted by Edgar Gonzalez and Akimychau midway through the opening frame. Seattle scored twice in the second period — including a goal in the final minute — to jump in front 2-1.
Each team scored twice in a back-and-forth third period, with the Totems answering Tahoe on two separate occassions. Pepin scored with 13:24 to play to make it 2-2, and the game remained tied until Seattle found the back of the net with 4:50 remaining — the first of three goals in a three-minute span.
Surmach made it 3-3 with 3:18 left off assists from Austin Lykins and Garner, and celebrated with a head-first slide toward center ice. But the Totems had the last laugh, scoring the game-winner with 1:38 left to even the series.
“It was an unfortunate mistake at the blue line,” Collins said. “We went for the body when we should have taken the puck, and they capitalized.”
In the series finale on Sunday, Dec. 13, Tahoe fell to Seattle 9-4. The Totems scored five second-period goals to take control of the game and win the three-game set.
The Icemen trailed 1-0 at the first intermission, and tied it midway through the second on a Surmach goal assisted by Lanzowski and Gonzalez. Seattle answered with five goals in the last seven minutes of the period — broken up only with an Akimychau goal assisted by Surmach and Garner — to take a commanding 6-2 lead into the third.
In the third period, Tahoe got goals from Lanzowski and Surmach —both assisted by Gonzalez — but couldn’t get closer than three. Seattle scored two goals in the last 10 minutes to win the game going away.
Tahoe (1-22) currently sits in last place in the WSHL Northwest Division standings, five points behind seventh-place Butte. The Icemen returned to action this week with four games in four days at the Western States Shootout in Las Vegas beginning Tuesday, Dec. 15.
“We’re getting there,” Collins said. “We’re a lot better now than when we started.”
After the Western States Shootout, the Icemen have three weeks off before returning to action. Tahoe resumes Northwest Division play with a three-game series at Butte starting Friday, Jan. 8.