The San Diego Skates completed a weekend sweep of the Las Vegas Wolves with a 13-3 victory at Iceplex. Brandon Richardson scored three goals and three assists to lead the Skates.
The game opened with a ceremonial face-off in honor of Victor Barger, father of Skates goalie John Barger and longtime patron of the team. Mr. Barger has been battling cancer for most of the past year. His wife, Cheryl dropped the puck as Mr. Barger watched from the end boards. After the face-off, the Skates banged their sticks in a salute then opened the end boards to pose for a picture with their honorary “dad.”
Richardson opened the scoring for the Skates at 16:04 on a play set up by Mickey Andrade and Weston Cydell. Rookie defenseman Corey Stark gave the host Skates a two goal lead at 14:11 with a goal from Chris Liang. John Riley scored at 7:23 with help from Richardson and Andreas Rahm. Max Balaban scored the first of two goals at 6:59 from Cydell and Richardson. Ryan Bahl and Riley set up Balaban’s second goal at 3:19 then the trio combined again, this time with Bahl getting the goal and Balaban and Riley the assists 2:20 to give the host Skates a 6-0 cushion heading to the intermission.
The Wolves snapped back in the second period with a quick goal at 19:26 by Dillon Lieberg. John Albanese picked up the assist. But the Skates regained control quickly with Richardson netting his second goal of the game at 18:33 with assists by Balaban and Riley.
The Skates seemed content to coast for most of the remainder of the period with Ryan Creamer scoring the only other goal at 5:44 from Liang.
Leading 8-1 to start the final period, Skates captain Mickey Andrade scoring an unassisted shorthanded goal at 18:24. Jonathan Valenzuela, the MWHL’s top defenseman in 2016, opened his account with a goal at 16:55 from Balaban and Richardson. Then last year’s MWHL MVP Cydell scored an unassisted goal to assert himself at 9:11 giving the Skates an 11-1 lead.
Libber took another dig at the Skates with a Wolves goal at 7:50 from Austin Ziakis and Albanese. But Richardson responded by converting a pass from Balaban to right things for the Skates. Clay Blankenship scored his first goal since returning to the Skates at 5:31 from Chris Greenwood. Then Sebastian Galas closed out the scoring with a goal for the Wolves to end the game at 13-3.
Notes: Richardson closed the series with five goals and six assists for 11 points, good enough to put him on top of the MWHL scoring table. Riley finished with 10 points, good for second, and Balaban closed with 9 points tying him with Arizona’s Justin Havriliak for third.
Photo Credit: Greg Siller.