Youth Ice hockey | Tahoe Grizzlies Squirts take NORCAL championship in OT thriller |

Youth Ice hockey | Tahoe Grizzlies Squirts take NORCAL championship in OT thriller

Submitted to swright@sierrasun.comThe Tahoe Grizzlies Squirts gather for a team photo after defeating the San Jose Jr. Sharks in the championship of the Northern California playoffs. The win earned the Grizzlies the top seed entering the California State Championships next month.

The Tahoe Grizzlies Ice Hockey Club Squirts finished 3-0 and won an overtime thriller in the title game of the Northern California playoffs this past Sunday to earn the top seed entering the California State Championships in San Jose.

The Tahoe Grizzlies Squirts and#8212; ages 9 and 10 with members from around Lake Tahoe, including Wesley Steinkopff of Tahoe City and Nick Cruz of Incline Village and#8212; advanced to the championship game with preliminary-round wins against the Roseville Capital Thunder and the Santa Clara Blackhawks.

The wins set up a championship matchup against the San Jose Jr. Sharks.

After a back-and-forth battle during regulation, in which Steinkopff and Cruz helped hold the Sharks in check with relentless back checking, the Grizzliesand#8217; Mickey Sullivan scored off of a turnover with 20 seconds left in regulation to tie the score at 4-all.

The clutch goal recharged the Grizzlies. And they took full advantage in the first overtime period.

With 10:47 remaining on the clock, Tahoe won a critical face-off in the Jr. Sharksand#8217; zone. They pressed the puck back to winger Kevin Lehmann, who resisted the onslaught of two Sharks attackers before completing his pass to open defenseman Axel Sorensen. Sorensen moved right, took two strides, and drilled a shot through several players and the Jr. Sharks goaltender, giving Tahoe the 5-4 win.

In the blink of an eye, the Grizzlies became the NORCAL Champions as pandemonium ensued. They also became the first ice hockey team in Tahoeand#8217;s history to win the North Division.

The championship win earned the Grizzlies the No. 1 seed entering the California State Championships the weekend of April 8-10. There, they will face tough SOCAL teams from Bakersfield and Valencia, as well as the fourth-ranked San Jose Jr. Sharks.

The Grizzlies are coached by Stephen Rooney, with assistants Jim Marino, Bailey Johnson and Scott Vogelgesang.

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