Denver product, Colorado youth hockey grad Stevens making his mark in Lake Tahoe, USPHL
For Luke Stevens, growing up in the Denver area exposed him to great hockey during his youth.
Now in his first season of junior hockey with the USPHL’s Lake Tahoe Lakers, Stevens has been on a mission this season on the Lakers’ back end, claiming numerous weekly awards from the league and amassing 31 goals and 60 points in 34 games to date.
Over the summer, Stevens said he was looking for a team that could help him improve his game, and that’s when Lake Tahoe entered the fray.
“I played for coach Dan Bogdan last year at Elite Hockey Academy (in Connecticut), and I was looking for a team to play for after not making a Tier II team,” said Stevens. “Coach Bogdan gave me a call about a week before the season started and offered me a spot on a new team out of South Lake Tahoe, Calif. I packed that day and was on a plane out of Denver the next day.
“Everything that appealed to me about Lake Tahoe (the scenery, the fresh start,) was just the beginning of why I decided to come. I knew Coach Bogdan was going to put together a great team, and I knew he would have everything set up so that the team could be successful in our first season. I also knew I wanted to be a standout in the Pacific Division, but the year I’ve had so far can only be attributed to my teammates and coaches that have put me in this spot. They have given me the confidence to play well and have given me the backdoor passes I need to score (thanks Jett, good luck in North Iowa).”
And while he came to the Lakers not knowing any teammates, that has certainly changed.
“I’ve never been closer with a group of peers in my life,” Stevens said. “We live together, we eat together, and even a couple of us work at Chipotle together. It’s been a fun year so far.”
Making the move from 18U AAA to junior hockey was “tough at first because of the physicality,” according to Stevens, but he noted that Elite Hockey Academy prepared him for the pace and skill of junior hockey.
“Despite the pandemic canceling many of our games last year, we still played high-level competition and did well,” said Stevens. “The real adjustment was the fans that we’ve had at home games. The atmosphere has been unreal, and it really made me appreciate the small town of South Lake Tahoe. They have really rallied around us after the devastating Caldor fire that ran close to the town.”
Stevens also noted how hockey has been in his blood for a long time.
“My brother (Christian) is the reason I started playing hockey,” Stevens explained. “He played for the (OHL) Kitchener Rangers as a 1991 birth year, so just as I was starting to play hockey, he was playing at the highest level in the world as a 17-year-old. From there, I fell in love watching, learning, and playing hockey, and it hasn’t stopped to this day. When I was a Pee Wee, my home rink was where the Avs practice (Family Sports Center), so knowing that Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog skated on the same ice motivated me to be the best player I can be.”
During his youth hockey days in Denver, Stevens played for multiple teams in Colorado, but said the ones that really stand out to him as being influential are the Arapahoe Warriors and Krivo School of Hockey Elite.
“Andrei Krivokrasov was my coach my first year in Bantam and he really instilled the work-first attitude that I use as an identity to this day,” said Stevens. “We skated at 6 a.m. every morning and trust me, I am not a morning person.”
Now with a little less than two months left in the USPHL regular season, Stevens has his eyes on the future, on and off the ice.
“My short-term goals in life and hockey are to get into the best schools possible and play Tier II this year or next year,” said Stevens. “I am a little unsure about my long -term goals, though. I want to play college hockey at the highest level possible, but I also want to study engineering in college. I really don’t know what path I’ll take to get to college and what exactly I’ll be doing once I’m there, but I’m excited nonetheless.”
— Matt Mackinder
(January 12, 2022)