By Lee Samuels
Las Vegas – Home, at last. After 12 road games, coach Gabe Gauthier and his exciting WSHL Las Vegas Storm hockey club will be on home ice. The Long Beach Bombers, 7-2-0, are in town for three games this weekend at the Las Vegas Ice Center. The two teams will get it on beginning Friday at 4 pm.
This is a first-year Las Vegas team which is off to a hot start. The Storm has already won seven games, has scored 21 times in its last three games and the players and the fans are thinking the team will be getting stronger and into a playoff situation this winter.
Coach Gauthier constructed the club the way the bigtime coaches do – from the net to the defense to the goal scorers.
“You need someone to make the big saves in the big games. It’s like having a star pitcher in baseball. You need it and you must have it,” Gauthier said from the ice rink last night.
That goalie is Gernot Wegerer who is from Austria. He is the #1 goalie on the club (Gauthier likes Patrik Jokela of Finland, as well) who is off to a very strong start.
Gauthier then tracked down defensemen like 6′ 5″ enforcer Braxton Davis of Hermosa Beach, California and then completed the roster with top goal scorers. One player, Quinn Travis of Colorado, came into town to try out for the USHL Tri City Storm. When he didn’t make that team, he went to Roy Henderson’s Global Showcase and then spoke to coach Gauthier. When Quinn signed, the Storm sent out its first press release during the summer.
There are 10 North American players, 10 European players on the Storm. Gauthier put into a ‘buddy’ system where an American and European player are together for one week going to the rink, talking hockey, hanging out. Gauthier says it’s all about chemistry which leads to better communication and performances on the ice.
Gauthier, 30, played on every level including the NHL. He said two of his coaches – Harvey Smyl of the BCHL Chilliwack Chiefs and George Gwozdecky of the University of Denver – were the best. Gauthier watched how they handled players in high tension games which were decided while precious seconds ticked down on the game clock.
It was Roy Henderson, famous with his Global Showcases, who years ago steered Gauthier to play at Chilliwack saying the Chiefs “have a spot for a player like you.” At the same time, Henderson helped Micah Sanford, one of the greatest scorekings ever in town, make his way to Chilliwack. Gauthier and Sanford played on high-powered, dynamic Chilliwack teams in the BCHL. Micah was the first from Las Vegas to ever play junior hockey. Now he and Gauthier are reunited coaching in the Storm program. Sanford will be on the Storm bench today.
Which brings us to Chris White, head coach of the Long Beach Bombers.
He and Gauthier are best friends.
“Years ago we played together on a South Coast Sabres Bantam AA team,” Gauthier said.
From the Blue Line – The Storm has a great penalty-killing team which is extremely aggressive. “We block a lot of shots,” Gauthier said….Las Vegas skaters on the Storm include Beau Ricketts, a star player in the biggest of games a few seasons ago with the Helena BigHorns and who played in the NAHL two seasons with the Minot Minotauros..…Jake McKenna, Richard Prekop, Hunter Ladd are from Las Vegas as well….The weekend schedule with all games at the Ice Center on Flamingo Ave. – Friday, 4 pm; Saturday, 7 pm; Sunday, 10:15 am.