BELLINGHAM - Squalicum senior captain Arne Peterson gathered his teammates seconds before they took the field for their matchup against Lakewood in both teams' Class 2A Bi-District opener.
He had a message, or better yet a reminder, telling them the undefeated Northwest Conference season meant nothing. All they had accomplished during the regular season no longer mattered, he said.
"That's really the mentality. You have nothing. You really have nothing going into the playoffs," Peterson said. "You're just the one seed. That's all we have, a one seed. And so beyond that we have to earn everything."
Aided by two Peterson goals, the Storm easily dispatched the Lakewood Cougars 6-0 in Squalicum's 2A Bi-District opener on Saturday, May 10, at Civic Stadium. The Storm will face Cedarcrest, which handed Sehome a 4-0 loss, in the semifinals on Tuesday, May 13, at Civic, with the winner of that game advancing to the district championship.
"It's really great to start off that way," Peterson said. "6-0, that's a dream for me. ... It was a lot of good play, not just knocking the ball long all the time. It was the right way to win."
Any thoughts of Squalicum suffering the same fate as it did last season in districts, losing its first two games and being ousted from the postseason, quickly vanished after Peterson knocked in the first goal only five minutes in. After the ball bounced around in the box several times, it popped out to the senior midfielder at the top of the box who one-timed it past Lakewood's keeper Mitchell Denning.
Fellow senior Gabe Guidroz added to the lead seven minutes later when he sent a blistering shot from 15 yards out through Denning's hands.
"The second goal, kind of the wheels came off their side," Squalicum coach Joe McAuliffe said. "They kind of got frustrated, and then I didn't want at halftime to go into it passively."
Tyler Hughes, who's just a freshman, showed why McAuliffe is so excited for him in the years to come when his nifty footwork led to a goal by Zach Daniels in the 37th minute. Hughes beat his defender down the right side before sending in a cross to Daniels, who finished with a header.
Hughes followed that with a goal of his own a minute later when he cut back up the middle of the field and sent a shot into the far-right corner of the net, giving the Storm a 4-0 lead going into the half.
"Tyler is amazing," McAuliffe said. "We know he's got more credentials than almost anybody, but we're working him into it, and making him earn his keep like everybody. ... He's so creative and intelligent."
Hughes is but a testament to the depth McAuliffe has at his disposal. David Abbott-Smith, one of the Storm's best goal scorers, typically comes off the bench to provide a spark, while other guys like Avery Wolfe on defense and Eli Guidroz up front are in similar situations. Worries of over-confidence aren't so much a problem, though, he said, because his team is hungry. Squalicum showed that tenacity in the practices leading up to the game Saturday.
"This is what I love about them. Their practices were hard," McAuliffe said. "They wanted it so badly because they knew what happened last year. So many of them were around when we lost the first two district games, and we were out. These guys are pretty focused."
Peterson added his second goal in the 53rd minute off a throw-in from Quinn Carpenter. The ball bounced through the Cougars' box before the senior put it in from a few feet out. He nearly secured the hat trick minutes later when he sent a shot sailing over the top crossbar from a similar spot.
"I was going for the hat trick and I skied it," Peterson said. "Got kicked. A little blood under my shin guard, but besides that, it's alright."
North Bennett rounded out the scoring effort when he beat two defenders on a breakaway, placing a low grounder past Denning.
This game marked the Storm's ninth consecutive shutout, having not allowed a goal since April 8 against Sehome. Keeper Trenton Langer only had to make four saves, none of which were threatening. B.J. James, Hans Kogan and Spencer Wallace provided a formidable, if not entirely impenetrable, backline, which paired with Squalicum's myriad attackers can make life difficult for any future opponents.
"We've all been to districts and know what it takes to go on," Peterson said.
Reach Alex Bigelow at email@example.com or call 360-715-2238. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for other Whatcom County sports updates.
SQUALICUM 6, LAKEWOOD 0
Goal: Arne Peterson (Squalicum), assist NA: time: 5:00; Goal: Gabe Guidroz (Squalicum), assist NA: time: 12:00; Goal: Zach Daniels (Squalicum), assist Tyler Hughes: time: 37:00; Goal: Tyler Hughes (Squalicum), assist NA: time: 38:00; Goal: Arne Peterson (Squalicum), assist Quinn Carpenter: time: 55:00; Goal: North Bennett (Squalicum), assist NA: time: 75:00. Shots on goal: Lakewood 6; Squalicum 32. Goalies (saves) Lakewood: Mitchell Denning (13); Squalicum: Trenton Langer (4).