With a little bit of dried blood on the side of his face and a big smile, Kale Lone reflected on his latest state championship March 4.
The Regis Jesuit senior captain finished a four-year prep ice hockey career that saw nothing but trips to the state championship game and yielded three rings after the Raiders’ 5-2 victory over Dakota Ridge at Pepsi Center.
“I feel amazing, it’s just as great as in the past years; the feeling never gets old,” Lone said in the midst of the celebration of Regis Jesuit’s second straight state title, third in the past four seasons and sixth all-time.
“I can’t pick which one is best, they are all equal and they are all highlights of my life,” Lone added. “I really can’t pick one. I will probably remember this one for longer than my freshman and junior years, but all three of them have been spectacular.”
Veteran coach Dan Woodley — who guided Regis Jesuit to its 12th straight trip to the Frozen Four — earned his sixth career state championship ring in a different way than before.
The Raiders (22-1) weren’t as high-scoring as they were on their way to last season’s state championship, but instead used a defensive-heavy mindset that also got the desired result.
“It’s hard to beat us once we get in the lead because we play such a defensive-first game,” Woodley said. “When we converted to a defensive concept, we really became a great team. The boys bought into it and applied all season.”
Regis Jesuit had to get past a Dakota Ridge team that had upset second-seeded Valor Christian in the semifinals — preventing a rematch of last season’s state title game — and played in the final for the first time.
The Eagles had plenty of top-line firepower in the form of brothers Jake and Drew Eickelman, who flexed their muscles early in getting them on the scoreboard first.
The Raiders found themselves trailing for the first time all postseason, but it lasted just 2 minutes, 38 seconds, until senior Colin Walsh got them even with the first of his two goals on the game.
Sophomore Sergio Padilla and senior Luke Dosen scored in an 11-second span in the second period to put Regis Jesuit in the driver’s seat.
Just after Padilla had scored from the right circle, Regis Jesuit won the ensuing facoff and Mac Padilla fed Dosen, who put a shot over the shoulder of Dakota Ridge goaltender Riley Allen for a 3-1 edge.
“We worked on it in practice; we like to have our rushes flat and we did just that and it turned into a goal,” Dosen said. “It just puts them into the ground at that point. They were one of the best teams in the state, but it’s devastating to have two goals scored on you in a row like that.”
The margin allowed Regis Jesuit to dive fully into its defensive mindset and find ways to slow down Dakota Ridge’s attack.
A defensive turnover right in front of the net allowed Parker Spann to beat senior Marco Sandoval — who was otherwise outstanding as he made 17 saves on the 19 shots he faced — to make it a one-goal game with less than five minutes left in the period.
For the remainder of the contest, Regis Jesuit made the Eagles expend a lot of energy on the defensive end, which sapped their ability to attack.
Senior Nicholas Schultz finished with his team-high fourth postseason goal and Walsh tacked on a power play goal in the third period to put the game away for Regis Jesuit.
Ten seniors were able to soak up the celebration and the Pepsi Center — where more than 4,000 people took in the final — and reflect on what it meant.
“It’s incredible, the coaching staff is one-of-a-kind and there’s really nothing to be said about how special Regis Jesuit is and how well we’re instructed,” Walsh said. “Hopefully as seniors, our legacy is just making sure this program continues to succeed. At the end of the day, these seniors want to make sure everybody can succeed and prosper.”
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or email@example.com. Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports