LOVELAND | Capsule look at the ice hockey state championship game between the Cherry Creek co-op team and Monarch scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday at the Budweiser Events Center in Loveland:
Courtney Oakes is Sports Editor of the Aurora Sentinel. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel
ICE HOCKEY STATE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
2 p.m. — CHERRY CREEK (18-4) VS. MONARCH (17-3-1)
Breakdown: Coach Jeff Mielnicki’s Cherry Creek team — which is made up of players from Cherry Creek as well as other district schools in Aurora in Cherokee Trail, Eaglecrest, Grandview and Smoky Hill, along with a player from Rangeview — has qualified for the state championship game for the first time since 1981 — a 3-1 loss to Arapahoe — before the program was shuttered for two decades. The Cherry Creek program went to the state final in 1977, 1978 and 1979 and won all three times. Monarch is set to play in its third consecutive state championship game, but is still seeking its first state crown after losses to Ralston Valley in 2013 and 2014. …Cherry Creek got just one day off after playing an epic six-overtime contest in the semifinals March 5, which ended with senior C.J. Nitchen’s sudden victory goal to end a game that stretched just over 76 minutes and ranked as what is believed to be the longest game in state history. James Shelton and Max Tennant also scored goals in the Bruins’ 3-2 win over Dakota Ridge, while goaltender Brady Mienicki turned in another strong performance with 30 saves on 32 shots against. In the other semifinal, Monarch trailed Regis Jesuit 1-0 after one period, but scored five unanswered goals — the first three by Blake Bride — to record a 5-1 victory over the previously undefeated Raiders. Adam Tybor and Andrew Pickner also scored for the Coyotes, while goalie Hampus Akesson saved 22 of the 23 shots he faced. …The teams met during Foothills Conference play in the regular season, with Monarch prevailing 3-0 on Feb. 13 at Boulder Valley Ice. Pickner, Tybor and Jake Young scored for the Coyotes, who got 22 saves on 22 shots from Akesson, who dealt Cherry Creek its only shutout loss of the season. Mielnicki made 23 saves on 26 shots for the Bruins. …In three postseason games — including a 4-1 win over Lewis-Palmer in the first round and 2-1 upset of two-time state champion Ralston Valley in the second round — Tennant leads Cherry Creek with two goals, both much needed. He tallied the first against Ralston Valley and the tying goal in the third period of the semifinal contest. Nick Chavez, Sean DeKramer (Cherokee Trail), Pieter Gesink (Denver Christian), Tim Keohane (Smoky Hill), Nitchen, Shelton and Jack Venuto all have postseason goals for the Bruins, who have assists fro all but Chavez, Tennant and Nitchen, plus one from Blake Yount (Smoky Hill). Mielnicki has made 96 saves on 100 shots against for a 1.14 GAA and .960 save percentage. …Pickner’s semifinal goal gave him a team-leading four in three playoff contests for Monarch, which topped Cheyenne Mountain 7-4 in the first round and Mountain Vista 3-2 in the second round. Bride and Tybor are next with three goals apiece, while Young has two and three other Coyotes have register one apiece. Bride, Pickner, Tybor and Mike Van Haute (team-high 4 assists) all lead the way with five points each. Akesson has yielded a total of seven goals on 63 shots against.