LOVELAND | Kyle Nelson didn’t have much energy left as he skated into the Mountain Vista zone in the third period of Thursday night’s state ice hockey semifinal at Budweiser Events Center, but the Regis Jesuit junior decided to at least put some short of shot on net.
At worst, the puck would end up deep in the Golden Eagles’ end and Nelson could get to the bench for a line change, but at best, it would go in, something none of his better shots earlier in the game had done.
To Nelson’s surprise, his effort produced the latter, a goal that gave the Raiders a 4-1 lead in the final period and helped give them with some breathing room against potent Mountain Vista, which scored in the closing minutes but fell short 4-2. Regis Jesuit advanced to its first state championship game since 2012 and will face unbeaten Monarch — the only team to beat 21-1 Regis Jesuit this season — at 1 p.m. Saturday on the same ice.
“I had a lot of opportunities in the first two periods, hitting the crossbar and having a breakaway and didn’t score, so I tried to just keep it simple,” said Nelson, who has two goals in the postseason and 17 for the season.
“I was pretty tired at the end of the shift, so I just shot it and fortunately it went through the five-hole.”
Nelson finished with a goal and two assists and Cale Woodley, Jack Jordan and Michael Baer all scored in a three-goal second period that turned out to be the push coach Dan Woodley’s team needed to make the program’s first final since 2012, when it won the last of its three state crowns in 11 seasons of existence.
The Raiders had been stopped in the semifinals for three straight years by the Coyotes, who went on to drop all three of the ensuing championship games to different opponents (Ralston Valley in 2013 and 2014 and the Cherry Creek co-op team last year).
Regis Jesuit earned a chance to add to its championship trophy case and extend Monarch’s misery by posting a strong semifinal victory over a Mountain Vista team it beat by just a single goal at the conclusion of the regular season.
A three-goal second period put Regis Jesuit on its way, as Cale Woodley, Jordan and Baer all found the back of the net to give the Raiders a seemingly comfortable lead with one period left.
Baer’s goal — which was assisted by Nelson, who also helped on Woodley’s power play goal earlier in the period — was particularly damaging to the Golden Eagles, as it came with just 4.3 seconds left in the period.
“That was a set play and fortunately we had a special line out there,” Dan Woodley said. “Michael Baer is one of our best shooters and he just reached for a puck and put it in.
“We were fortunate to get the third,” added Woodley, who said he was disappointed in his team’s offensive pressure in the final period. “It’s one of those games where they are a proud team and they are going to battle hard and push themselves. When they do that, they are fully capable of winning.”
Ryan Lindemann scored twice for Mountain Vista in the third period, but Nelson’s sneaky shot that got through the pads of goalie Brandon Sego gave Regis Jesuit a lead that was just too large with such little time remaining.
“It was good to have a cushion and we just had to play solid defense at the end,” Nelson said.
Now, the Raiders can turn their attention to facing a Monarch team that posted a 3-0 victory over them on Feb. 6 in a game that saw the Coyotes hold Regis Jesuit to 0-for-8 on the power play and score twice shorthanded.
The Raiders came away believing they can skate with the
“We have a lot of motivation and confidence going into the state championship against Monarch,” Nelson said. “We know what they are like and they know what we’re like. The first goal is going to be a big one, just like in the league season.
“They lost three in a row in the championship game, so hopefully we can beat them this time and make that streak go longer.”
Courtney Oakes is Aurora Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel
REGIS JESUIT 4, MOUNTAIN VISTA 2
Score by periods:
Regis Jesuit 0 3 1 — 4
Mountain Vista 0 0 2 — 2
Second period: Regis Jesuit — Cale Woodley (Kyle Nelson) (power play), 3:45; Regis Jesuit — Jack Jordan (Michael Baer, Woodley), 8:53; Regis Jesuit — Baer (Nelson), 16:56
Third period: Mountain Vista — Ryan Lindemann (Jacob Morgan), 6:13; Regis Jesuit — Nelson (unassisted), 9:40; Mountain Vista — Lindemann (Charlie Friedman), 15:25
Saves: Regis Jesuit — Sam Gartner (19 shots on goal-17 saves); Mountain Vista — Brandon Sego (30 shots on goal-26 saves). Penalties: Regis Jesuit 5 for 18 minutes; Mountain Vista 6 for 20 minutes. Power plays: Regis Jesuit 1-for-3; Mountain Vista 0-for-2