WSHL NORTHWEST DIVISION FINAL PREVIEW
#2 TAHOE ICEMEN @ #1 IDAHO ICECATS
Best-of-three series/all games at Manchester Ice Centre – McCall, ID
GAME 1Friday, March 307:00 p.m.
GAME 2Saturday, March 317:00 p.m.
GAME 3*Sunday, April 14:00 p.m.
Idaho8-0-1, 17 points
Tahoe1-8-0, 2 points
October 13Tahoe 4 @ Idaho 5
October 14 Tahoe 3 @ Idaho 7
October 15Tahoe 2 @ Idaho 6
December 14Idaho 3 @ Tahoe 2
December 15Idaho 3 @ Tahoe 4 (OT)
December 16Idaho 9 @ Tahoe 4
February 1Idaho 9 @ Tahoe 4
February 2Idaho 6 @ Tahoe 3
February 3Idaho 5 @ Tahoe 4
PREVIOUS PLAYOFF MEETINGS
These two franchises met in the playoffs for the first time in 2013, when Idaho beat Tahoe 4-2 in the Thorne Cup championship game. Idaho and Tahoe also played each other in a division semifinal series last year, which Idaho swept in two games.
Idaho – The IceCats have a long history of excellence in the WSHL postseason. Idaho has qualified for the Thorne Cup finals in each of the last seven seasons, earning five championships. Idaho has also won eight consecutive division titles, including six in the Northwest Division. For head coach and general
manager John Olver, anything less than a championship is below expectations.
Tahoe – In 2013, the Bay Area Seals finished second in the Pacific Division in their inaugural season and rode a wave of momentum all the way to the Thorne Cup championship game, where they fell to Idaho. That season remains the most successful in Icemen franchise history. Last year, Tahoe broke a three-year playoff drought and won its first-round series against Vancouver before losing in the division semifinals.
Head coach:John Olver
44-4-3, 1st place – Northwest Division
306 GF / 103 GA
IDAHO SPECIAL TEAMS
POWER PLAY68/234 (29.1%, 3rd in WSHL)
PENALTY KILL210/240 (87.5%, 3rd in WSHL – 5 SHG)
F Lance Herning (44-36-80), F Matthew Kindred (21-33-54), F Jacob Hedencrona (21-32-53), F Alexander Piliya (14-35-49), F Kevin Fellows (16-32-48), D Terry Ryder (11-44-55), G Jacob Hough (19-1-1/1.83/.921), G Tyler Matthews (12-2-1/1.58/.944; highest save percentage in WSHL)
Head coach:Mickey Lang
28-20-3, 2nd place (tied) – Northwest Division
241 GF / 226 GA
TAHOE SPECIAL TEAMS
POWER PLAY67/276 (24.3%, 8th in WSHL)
PENALTY KILL251/320 (78.4%, 13th in WSHL – 18 SHG)
F Paul Frys (51-68-119), F Danylo Moroz (24-35-59), F Mitch Hunt (12-20-32), F Easton Easterson (17-13-30), D Phillip Heisse III (25-39-64), D Jackson Oleson (12-22-34), G Wade Conlan (13-12-0/4.00/.899)
The Idaho IceCats have been on a mission this season, and it has resulted in a dominant performance against the Northwest Division. IceCats Head Coach and General Manager John Olver has his club rolling, and they seem to be destined for another run at the Thorne Cup. At the same time, the Tahoe Icemen have shown signs of real improvement. Not long ago the Icemen lost 50 of 52 games, but the hire of head coach Mickey Lang has turned the franchise around.
Tahoe seemed to be the only Northwest Division rival that could give Idaho any trouble throughout the regular season. Although the Icemen lost eight of nine to the IceCats this season, most games were competitive, and five contests were decided by three goals or fewer. If there’s one Northwest Division team that’s most likely to take down Idaho, it has to be Tahoe.
The Icemen opened their postseason last round with a two-game sweep of Bellingham. The Blazers had been playing very good hockey, but Tahoe quickly humbled them with wins of 5-1 and 9-6. The 15-goal output in the series will probably need to be replicated or improved upon this weekend for the Icemen to have a real chance at winning. Idaho’s offensive attack is quite good, and its defense is just as elite as it’s been in years past.
“We had a great week of practice leading up to the Bellingham series,” Lang said. “Then we stuck to the game plan and everyone contributed.”
“Idaho is a great team, so we’re preparing for them a little differently than some of the other teams we face,” Lang continued. “They have a lot of depth on their team, but we’re ready for a challenge. I think every player on our roster will have an impact on the series. Whether it’s positive or negative, that’s yet to be determined. That’s the best things about sports – you can’t plan how the game will play out, and anything can happen.”
It’s been awhile since the IceCats lost in regulation. They carry a jaw-dropping 24-0-2 record since the holiday break into this series. It’s clear that, as the underdog, Tahoe will need a lot to go its way to win. Icemen netminder Maximilian Haselbacher’s play will have a huge effect on the outcome of this weekend’s games. Haselbacher, a recent addition to Tahoe’s roster, is getting his first taste of the WSHL playoffs after spending the last three seasons with the Omaha AAA Lancers. He has pushed his way into a starting role for the Icemen and will be facing the IceCats for the first time.
--- Jared Tennant for Harrington Sports Media