DENVER | In another evenly-matched battle between the Regis Jesuit and Valor Christian ice hockey teams, something abnormal had to happen to decide the winner of Thursday evening’s Frozen Four contest.
Unfortunately for the Raiders, that anomaly — an unexpected ricochet off the end boards that ended up in the net — went against them this time in a 2-1 loss to the Eagles at Pepsi Center that ended their bid for a third consecutive state championship.
William Laws scored a power play goal in the second period, but there was no equalizer for fifth-seeded Regis Jesuit, which lost a second one-goal game to top-seeded Valor Christian and saw its season end 13-7-2. The Raiders played with head coach Dan Woodley back on the bench after he was away in the wake of the tragic death of his son, Cale.
“We stuck to our game plan the whole time, it’s just how the pucks bounce sometimes,” said senior Nolan Sargent, who fell short of playing in the state championship game for the fourth time in as many seasons.
Valor Christian — which will face No. 3 Fort Collins (a 3-2 winner over No. 2 Chaparral in the other semifinal) at 7:30 p.m. March 10 in the state final — got on the scoreboard first when they converted on an early power play chance with a goal from Ryan Kayser.
Regis Jesuit evened it in the late stages of the second period when Laws tallied his third goal of the postseason with assists going to Jake Stordahl and Kai Oganeku.
The Raiders nearly added another goal inside the final minute of the period, but a loose puck in the crease that got hacked at by several players was eventually covered by sprawled Valor Christian goalie Trey Hirschfield.
Fortune was with the Eagles early in the third period when Evan Pahos rifled a puck into the Regis Jesuit end that bounced hard off the boards and deflected off the skate of sophomore goalie Gage Bussey as he slid it towards the post and went into the net.
Sargent felt good about the team’s defensive effort against a dangerous Valor Christian offense, which included 25 saves from Bussey.
“They only got a power play goal and a fluky off the backboards goal and that’s not happening in any rink except for this tone,” he said. “That’s not the rink’s fault, it’s just something we didn’t anticipate. There’s definitely some things you have to get used to here.”
The Raiders were unable to answer in the closing minutes.
A moment of silence was observed before the game in honor of Cale Woodley — as it has been at several venues and before several games during the hockey postseason — and Sargent was glad to have his coach on the bench.
“Seeing Woodley said has made us all want to work more for him,” Sargent said. “It was absolutely fantastic (to have him there). I can’t even fathom what he and his family are going through, so for him to be able to come out and do his job just so elegantly is amazing.”
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports
(1) VALOR CHRISTIAN 2, (5) REGIS JESUIT 1
Score by periods:
Regis Jesuit 0 1 0 — 1
Valor Christian 1 0 1 — 2
First period: Valor Christian — Ryan Kayser (power play), 11:04
Second period: Regis Jesuit — William Laws (Jake Stordahl, Kai Oganeku), 11:43
Third period: Valor Christian — Evan Pahos, 2:01
Saves: Regis Jesuit — Gage Bussey (27 shots on goal-25 saves); Valor Christian — Trey Hirschfield (26 shots on goal-25 saves)