Tahoe Wolf Pack hot on ice | SierraSun.com

Tahoe Wolf Pack hot on ice

Provided to the SunThe Tahoe Wolf Pack's Don Hartzell controls the puck during a summer pickup game at Squaw Valley's High Camp. The Wolf Pack, made up of players from North Tahoe and Reno, is undefeated in a competitive South Lake Tahoe hockey league.

When it comes to lightning-fast Tahoe action sports, ice hockey probably doesn’t come to mind. But unbeknownst to most, North Tahoe does have a home team, the Tahoe Wolf Pack.

The Wolf Pack plays in the top men’s division of the South Lake Tahoe Hockey League. The non-contact adult league features five teams from the Tahoe Basin and Reno.

The Wolf Pack was founded in 2006 by captain and general manager David Zwick. Now playing in its fourth season, the team is currently undefeated and in first place nearing the league playoffs.

Though hockey’s East Coast popularity has yet to fully materialize out West, Zwick pointed out that the sport fits well in the Tahoe athletic lifestyle.

“Hockey is an exciting motion sport,” he said. “Just like skiing, you’re always moving fast and you need great hand-eye coordination.”

Zwick started the Wolf Pack when the Reno team he had previously played for disbanded. Assembling old teammates and a few locals who had played summer pickup hockey at Squaw Valley’s High Camp, Zwick founded the modest team based on good, clean hockey.

“Most teams in the league have been together for eight or 10 years,” Zwick said. “We were the motley crew when we started last year. I had only a few good players.”

The Wolf Pack has obviously come a long way since its formation, and as its recent success suggests, the team is not hurting for top talent. The Wolf Pack is well-rounded, boasting the lowest goals against average, the highest goals scored average and the most overall goals scored. Centers such as Don Hartzell and Doug Gore hold down the offense while defensemen Tom O’Neill and goalkeeper Jeffrey Rieker captain the defense.

The group is tight-knit despite only four seasons playing together. Keeping players on the ice and out of the penalty box has also been one of the keys to the team’s success.

“Our success can be attributed to great team synergy and a focus on skills, not fighting,” Zwick said. “The top teams usually aren’t too chippy. The lesser teams get frustrated and their emotions flare.”

Inspiration from loved ones in the crowd also helps the players keep their cool.

“Our families are always spectating, so I want clean play from my team,” Zwick said.

Playing in a South Lake Tahoe league, Wolf Pack players are a dedicated bunch.

“The majority of the team really puts in a brutal effort to play,” Zwick said. “(We) travel three to four hours round-trip to play in South Lake Tahoe.

“Our players have been playing for most of their lives, and the passion shows.”

With two games remaining in the regular season ” this following an 11-2 win Wednesday night ” the Wolf Pack hopes to ride its winning streak straight to the league championship. Winning big also figures well into Zwick’s future plans for the team, as he would like to pick up a sponsor. Aspiring businesses, take note.

“We’re not currently sponsored but most teams are,” Zwick said. “We would like to pick up a local sponsor for next season.”

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