Ice Hockey: Defending state champion Regis Jesuit readies for stacked Frozen Four

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AURORA | Dan Woodley only has eight seasons as a frame of reference, but the Regis Jesuit ice hockey coach expects this season’s prep Frozen Four to be the best Colorado has seen. In quite a while, at least.

The four teams that most expected to be left standing — Woodley’s defending state champion Raiders, Ralston Valley, Monarch and Resurrection Christian — made it through the first two rounds and convene for three games over two days at the University of Denver’s Magness Arena to decide this season’s title.

First up are Thursday’s semifinals, where Ralston Valley (18-2-1) and Resurrection Christian (16-3-2) face off at 6:30 p.m., followed by Regis Jesuit (16-2-3) and Monarch (18-1-2) at 8:30 p.m. The winners advance to Friday’s 6 p.m. championship game.

Woodley expects fireworks.

“This could be one of the best weekends for Colorado hockey school hockey since its inception,” estimated Woodley, whose team appears in the semifinals for the sixth consecutive season and is in the running for its fourth state championship in the past six seasons.

“I should probably only talk about the last eight years, because that’s what I know, but certainly that could be the case,” he added. “These four teams are playing at a high level and they have the experience to perform in big games.”

Indeed the state championship could go to any of the four teams in the equation if the regular season is any indication.

A total of seven games between the four teams produced three ties and three one-goal games, with only one game decided by two goals.

Regis Jesuit played to 3-3 ties with both Monarch and Resurrection Christian and lost a 2-1 overtime game to Ralston Valley that saw the Mustangs get a pair of fortuitous bounces on their goals. Ralston Valley dealt Monarch its only loss, a 3-2 decision, and the Coyotes won twice against Resurrection Christian — a 2-1 affair and a 5-3 victory that marked the largest margin in games between any of the four semifinalists.

Resurrection Christian played Ralston Valley to a 4-4 tie in the last week of the season.

Each team has plenty of firepower, with Regis Jesuit boasting senior forwards Nathan Haas (21 goals, 18 assists) and Conner Wigton (20 goals, 18 assists), while senior Brian Engh has scored three goals already in two postseason games and 11 on the season. The Raiders have also improved on the power play of late, with defensemen getting involved. Senior Brady Hall has four assists in the playoffs and junior Nolan Carothers scored twice in Regis Jesuit’s quarterfinal victory.

Junior goalie Sam Harden, who was in the nets when the Raiders beat Ralston Valley to win last season’s state title, brings an 11-1-3 record with five shutouts and a 1.26 goals against average into the semifinals.

Monarch — which has scored 18 goals in two playoff games — features Jake Christofferson (26 goals, 28 assists) and Walker Harris (21 goals, 26 assists), while Ian Oden has been strong in the nets.

Charles Joby (22 goals, 16 assists) and Greg Dyba (17 goals, 13 assists) are the catalysts for Ralston Valley, as both scored in the Mustangs’ victory over Regis Jesuit, with Dyba getting credit for the game-winner in overtime. Goaltender Zach Larocque has yet to give up a goal in two playoff games.

Resurrection Christian has four double-digit goal scorers, headed by Garrett Wood (17 goals, 24 assists) and Tanner Ulland (21 goals, 17 assists), while goaltender Brandan Alcorn has been solid, but not spectacular statistically, for the Cougars.

Reach Sports Editor Courtney Oakes at [email protected] or 303-750-7555

2013 STATE ICE HOCKEY FINAL FOUR

Thursday, Feb. 28 (Magness Arena)

Resurrection Christian (16-3-2) vs. Ralston Valley (18-2-1), 6 p.m.

Regis Jesuit (16-2-3) vs. Monarch (18-1-2), 8:30 p.m.

Friday, March 1 (Magness Arena)

Semifinal winners, 6 p.m.