LOVELAND | Even though he and his Cherry Creek teammates had been on the ice for nearly the equivalent of two full games Thursday night, C.J. Nitchen had some fuel left in the tank.
Early in the sixth overtime of a state ice hockey semifinal contest, the Bruins’ captain rocketed through center ice like he was shot out of cannon, recovered from an initial fan and put home a sudden victory goal to give Cherry Creek a 3-2 win over Dakota Ridge.
The Bruins — in just their third season since a 20-year hiatus for the program — advanced to the 2 p.m. state championship game on Saturday on the same ice against Monarch, which will appear in the state final for the third straight season after a 5-1 win over previously unbeaten Regis Jesuit in the other semifinal.
Cherry Creek will play for the state ice hockey championship for the first time since 1981 and made its fifth final all-time. The Bruins won state title sin 1977, 1978 and 1979.
Cherry Creek took the early lead on James Shelton’s unassisted goal in the first period, but then found itself down 2-1 for the bulk of regulation after the Eagles countered with two goals in the opening period.
The Bruins trailed until just under seven remained in the third period when Max Tennant got the equalizer with the assist going to Jack Venuto. The duo scored both of Cherry Creek’s goals in the previous round in an upset of Ralston Valley.
Goaltender Brady Mielnicki turned aside 30 of the 32 shots he faced for the Bruins.
Courtney Oakes is Sports Editor of the Aurora Sentinel. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel
CHERRY CREEK 3, DAKOTA RIDGE 2 (6OT)
Score by periods:
Cherry Creek 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 — 3
Dakota Ridge 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 — 2
First period: Cherry Creek — James Shelton, 3:08; Dakota Ridge — Zach Ross (Zach Williams, Drew Scott), 11:04; Dakota Ridge — Graehm Konsella (Ross), 14:20
Third period: Cherry Creek — Max Tennant (Jack Venuto), 10:14
Sixth overtime: Cherry Creek — Chris Nitchen, 0:36
Goaltenders: Cherry Creek — Brady Mielnicki (32 shots against-30 saves); Dakota Ridge — Joey Owston (41 shots against-38 saves)