Shocked to life by giving up an early goal, the Regis Jesuit ice hockey team proceeded to shock the entire prep ice hockey world March 5.
The Raiders fell behind undefeated and prohibitive state champion favorite Monarch just 13 seconds into the state final at the Budweiser Events Center in Loveland, yet coach Dan Woodley’s team came to life the way no other team had against the high-powered Coyotes this season.
In an early hole to the Coyotes (21-1) on Adam Tybor’s lightning-quick goal, Cale Woodley tied the game with a power play goal for Regis Jesuit midway through the first period, and Jack Jordan sent the Raiders buzzing into the first intermission with the lead after he converted a penalty shot.
Four more goals later, Regis Jesuit had a 6-1 victory that netted the program’s first state championship since 2012 and the fourth in its supremely successful 11-year history.
“It was like putting the paddles on a guy and giving him a shock; it was just a shock to our system,” Dan Woodley said of Monarch’s early goal.
“We came out ready to play and ready to go, but they were more ready and got the quick jump on us. It gave us something to focus on and a reason to play harder … We came out and competed and got the next two. That was a real credit to our character in that locker room.”
Senior Eamon Duffy admitted the Coyotes’ early score phased the Raiders, but also motivated them.
“It was shocking, yeah. When that happened I think we all just looked around in bewilderment that they scored that early,” Duffy said.
“Honestly, though, it just fueled the fire even more.”
Junior Kyle Nelson and senior Jack Kilkenny tallied in the second period to increase the lead and Duffy’s shorthanded score early in the third period put Regis Jesuit (22-1) in full command.
Rowan Barnes tacked on a power play goal to put the game on ice for the Raiders, who failed to score at all when the teams met in the regular season. In the final, Regis Jesuit became the first team to score more than two goals against Monarch in 22 games. The Coyotes allowed just 18 goals to their prior 21 opponents.
Even more impressively, Monarch piled up 183 goals in 18 regular season games and scored 20 more in three previous playoff contests, yet couldn’t score on Regis Jesuit senior goaltender Sam Gartner after the goal in the opening seconds.
Gartner turned in a 24-save effort to follow a 17-stop performance on March 3 in a 4-2 semifinal victory over Mountain Vista.
Woodley came away pleased with so many facets of his teams’ play and how it upped its level of play throughout a back-loaded regular season and into the playoffs, during which the Raiders outscored their four opponents 28-3.
“This was the first year in awhile where we didn’t have a kid on this team that had a ring,” said Woodley, who also had state championship-winning teams back-to-back in 2008 and 2009, then 2012 before Monarch kept them from a title shot for three straight seasons.
“Everyone of these kids were trying to get their first ring,” he added. “Some of them did have experience with the national championship, but to get a state championship is fantastic because it’s so important to us.
“This is probably the best team I’ve coached, with the most talent, offensive ability and depth. It was fantastic.”
Next up for both Regis Jesuit and the Cherry Creek co-0p team — which included players from several Aurora schools — is a trip to the USA Hockey Youth Nationals, which run March 17-21 in Reston, Virginia.
Both the Raiders and Bruins won national titles at the same tournament last season, as Regis Jesuit took the Pure Division crown and Cherry Creek captured the Combined Division, which featured teams with players from multiple schools.
Regis Jesuit also won a national championship in 2012 and finished second in 2013.
Courtney Oakes is Aurora Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel