The San Diego Skates celebrated their MWHL Cup homecoming with a dominating 15-2 victory over the Las Vegas Wolves. Rookie Chris Liang scored three goals and two assists to lead the Skates.
It took the MWHL Cup Champion Skates just 33 seconds to get on the board, as playoff MVP Max Balaban ripped a shot past Wolves goalie Greg Norris on a pass from Brandon Richardson. Maik Tatavosian converted a play from Liang and Ryan Bahl to make it a 2-0 game for the Skates at 12:45. Richardson scored his first goal as a Skate at 10:45 from John Riley and Balaban.
The onslaught continued with defenseman Brandon Nevarez finding the net at 10:27 from Mickey Andrade and Clay Blankenship. San Diego native Joe Fortunato, now living in Las Vegas but still playing for San Diego, stung his new neighbors with a goal at 8:06 from Ryan Creamer. Riley drove to the net to score from Richardson at 6:56 then defenseman Erick “Moose” Meussner scored with an assists from Fortunato and Bobby Lim to make it a 7-0 game. John Albanese salvaged the period for Las Vegas by ruining Jarren Skaife’s bid for a shutout at 1:08 on a play setup by Jon Royka and Sebastian Galas.
If the goal by Albanese gave the Wolves a lift, it didn’t last long. The Skates started adding to their lead at 17:15 of the second period with a goal by Lim from Riley and Blankenship. Riley scored his second goal of the game at 13:07 from Lim and Meussner on the power play. Liang scored his first goal as a Skate at 11:35 from Tatavosian. Fortunato scored his second goal of the game at 5:14 from Tirell Stokes and Weston Cydell to raise the score to 11-1 in favor of the Skates.
Tyler Gibson offered a glimmer of hope for the Wolves with a goal at 4:24 on a play created by Dillon Lieberg and Galas. But Tatavosian turned off the lights with his second goal assisted by Liang and Creamer at 1:12 .
Leading 12-2 to start the final period, the Skates eased off the pedal but couldn’t help scoring a few more. Richardson finished a nice pass from Riley at 17:34 then Liang scored his second goal of the game at 17:01 from Richardson and Riley. The Skates eased up and rolled their third and fourth line for the remainder of the period, but Liang still managed to cap his hat trick with 33 seconds left in regulation.
Notes: The Skates started 15 players from their championship team along with 5 newcomers including Liang, Richardson, Lim, Blankenship, and defenseman Andreas Rahm. Blankenship’s appearance marked a return to the Skates after a season off. The Wolves lineup included Galas and Todd Brautigam, members of Las Vegas’ original MWHL franchise, as well as journeyman Matt Sablan who has played with four MWHL clubs including Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Orange County, and San Diego.