CHESTERFIELD, MISSOURI | Winning a national championship couldn’t have been much sweeter than it was for the Regis Jesuit ice hockey team Monday.

The Raiders not only came away with their second national title in four years at the 2015 U.S. Hockey National Championships, but their 3-1 win in the Pure Division final at Hardee’s Iceplex came at the expense of a familiar opponent in Santa Margarita, California, which had taken the last two meetings.

Santa Margarita bested coach Dan Woodley’s team in the championship game of the 2013 national tournament in Coral Springs, Florida, and also handed Regis Jesuit a 2-1 defeat in the pool play portion of this season’s multi-state tournament.

The Regis Jesuit ice hockey team celebrates its Pure Division National Championship on March 23, 2015, in Chesterfield, Missouri. (Photo from RJHS Hockey Twitter account)
The Regis Jesuit ice hockey team celebrates its Pure Division National Championship on March 23, 2015, in Chesterfield, Missouri. (Photo from RJHS Hockey Twitter account)

This time, the Raiders prevailed in the big one, capping a strong run that helped at least in part put the memory of a loss to Monarch in Colorado’s Frozen Four in the past. Jack Kilkenny scored a power play goal to lift Regis Jesuit into a tie after it fell behind early and Connor Brennan had what turned out to be the game-winning goal early in the third period. Cale Woodley added an empty net goal in the closing seconds for the Raiders, while goaltender Sam Gartner turned aside 20 of the 21 shots he faced in the victory.

“We played inspired hockey in this tournament; we played our systems, we had our power play working just dynamically and we had guys willing to sacrifice to block shots,” said Woodley, whose team also won the U.S. Hockey National Championship tournament in 2012. “Our goaltending was excellent and we had a really good weekend going through the hard road to get to the final.”

Shortly before Regis Jesuit won its championship, the Cherry Creek co-op team — made up of players from around the Cherry Creek School District and others from Aurora — won the new Combined Division with a 2-1 victory over Dubuque, Iowa, making Colorado teams 2-0 on the day.

“It was an absolutely fantastic day for Colorado high school hockey,” Woodley said. “Having this level of success on such a big stage is a huge compliment to the players and the programs.”

Regis Jesuit finished atop a Pure Division that included teams from Arizona, California, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Tennessee, Texas and Utah.

While the championship didn’t take away all of the sting of a 5-1 loss to Monarch in the Colorado semifinals a few weeks earlier — which derailed an undefeated season — Woodley did believe the national tournament performance meant a lot.

“A state title is really the goal for the season and it was a distinctly painful experience to go undefeated and have our first loss to be such a rough loss at such an important time,” Woodley said.

“This doesn’t necessarily wipe away that feeling of loss, but it does give the kids something to rally around and realize that we could get it done, that we were a good team and we were able to bring home a national title. It certainly shows that under the right circumstances against teams that were the equal of any we were playing, we were right there.”

The Raiders earned a measure of payback for a 2-1 loss to Santa Margarita a few days earlier in pool play, though they fell behind early as their opponents executed perfectly on the power play with Michael Fary scoring 4:54 into the second period.

Ten minutes later, Kilkenny scored yet another goal for Regis Jesuit’s red-shot power play unit — which scored all four of its goals with the man advantage in a quarterfinal game Sunday against Christian Brothers College H.S. — to even the score.

Capitalizing on a large Olympic-sized ice surface that seemed to favor the Raiders’ puck control and speed in Woodley’s estimation, the Raiders took the lead on a goal by Brennan, who finished with at least one point in all six of the Raiders’ games.

“It was a really nice goal, it had to be nicely done because that team was so defensively sound,” Woodley said.

With the net empty and Santa Margarita pressing for the tying goal, Cale Woodley came away with a steal and deposited the puck in the empty net.

Dan Woodley was glad that a key group of seniors including forwards Brennan, Grant Johnson and John Kane and defensemen Carter Alcock, Thomas Jahde and Roman West among others got to end their prep hockey careers on a high note.

“It’s a great legacy our seniors have left for the Regis Jesuit guys,” he said. “As we moved forward, our program is healthy and the program in Colorado is healthy, so I’m very comfortable with everything that happened this season.”

Courtney Oakes is Sports Editor of the Aurora Sentinel. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel



Regis Jesuit 3, Santa Margarita (California) 1

Score by periods:

Regis Jesuit  0  1  2 — 3

Santa Marg.  0  1  0 — 1


Second period: Santa Magarita — Michael Fary (power play) (Tyler Gebauer, Regnars Udris), 4:54; Regis Jesuit — Jack Kilkenny (power play) (Connor Brennan), 15:09

Third period: Regis Jesuit — Brennan (Kilkenny), 5:20; Regis Jesuit — Cale Woodley, 19:46 (empty net)

Goaltenders: Santa Margarita — Dylan Gluck (20 shots on goal-17 saves); Regis Jesuit — Sam Gartner (21 shots on goal-20 saves)

Courtney Oakes is sports Editor and photographer with Sentinel Colorado. A Denver East High School alum. He came to the Sentinel in 2001 and since then has received a number of professional awards from...