DENVER | Colorado will have a first-time state ice hockey champion.
Monarch made sure of that with its 5-2 victory over defending state champion Regis Jesuit on Thursday night at Magness Arena, setting up a state championship game between teams chasing their first state title.
The Coyotes — making their first-ever appearance in the semifinals — scored four straight goals after the Raiders got on the scoreboard first and finished off the win that put them into Friday night’s final against Ralston Valley, which beat Resurrection Christian 5-1 in the other semifinal. Face-off on the campus of the University of Denver is at 6 p.m.
The winner will be the first champion not from Regis Jesuit or Lewis-Palmer since 2007.
Top-seeded Monarch and fourth-seeded Regis Jesuit played to a 3-3 tie just a few weeks earlier, but on this night it was the Coyotes who executed, asserted themselves physically and weathered the storm from the Raiders.
“Monarch had a fantastic season and they played like champions tonight,” said Regis Jesuit coach Dan Woodley, whose team was denied a shot at winning its fourth state championship in six seasons.
“I thought we competed well and I thought the game turned on a couple of finishing plays,” he added. “They made some nice plays and put the puck in the net and we had some nice plays and they didn’t go in. …Sometimes teams are evenly matched and you have a 5-2 game one day and you play the next and it might go the other way. I don’t know if that’s the case here, but I felt our guys competed hard and should be commended for their effort.”
Regis Jesuit (16-3-3) got on the scoreboard first just four minutes, 14 seconds into the game when Grant Johnson beat Monarch goaltender Ian Oden with an assist from Logan Baca.
The Coyotes reeled off the next four goals to take control of the game, getting the equalizer from Noah Zimmerman and the first of two goals from David Neitenbach before the opening period came to a close.
Jake Orsborn scored on the rebound of a long shot put on Regis Jesuit junior netminder Sam Harden and Neitenbach converted a nice pass from behind the net from Gian Cervo to put Monarch in command with a 4-1 lead in the later stages of the second period.
“They have a lot of skill and a lot of talent,” Regis Jesuit senior defenseman Brady Hall said. “We tried our best down low, but we struggled on the defensive end and it came back to bite us.”
Regis Jesuit tried to claw back and cut its deficit to two with a goal in the final minute of the second period.
Less than a second after their first power play of the game had expired, the Raiders made it 4-2 on a goal by Jack O’Neil, with assists going to Brian Engh and Tony Tuccy.
They nearly added another in the final frantic seconds of the period, but Oden made one sprawling save and another shot went high. The Monarch goaltender made several saves on the night that surprised the Raiders.
“We had some chances where I thought the puck was going in the net,” Woodley said. “He had such quick feet and kicked his legs out and made some low saves. I thought the puck was by him and he threw the pad out and made some saves that were game-changers. I would have said that if one of those goes in or he falters at any point and we pop one of those in and get within one goal, maybe it’s a different game.
“We pushed and pushed and pushed and couldn’t get one by him,” he added.
Monarch got the only goal of the final period when Cameron Gardner scored an empty-netter in the final minute.
Oden stopped 14 of the 16 shots put on him, while Regis Jesuit junior netminder Sam Harden made 17 saves on 21 shots.
It was a tough exit for Regis Jesuit’s core of seniors, many of whom played in two state championship games and tasted the thrill of victory last season.
“It was great playing with these guys, they are my brothers,” Hall said. “A big thing they teach at Regis is brotherhood and that’s what we try to get out of sports. It’s not just being champions, but it’s growing as a brotherhood and together as men.
“It was a great season.”
Reach Sports Editor Courtney Oakes at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-750-7555
MONARCH 5, REGIS JESUIT 2
Score by periods:
Regis Jesuit 1 1 0 — 2
Monarch 2 2 1 — 5
First period: Regis Jesuit – Grant Johnson (Logan Baca), 4:14; Monarch – Noah Zimmerman (Keo Jamieson), 9:33; Monarch – David Neitenbach (Gian Cirvo), 13:54
Second period: Monarch – Jake Orsborn (DJ Burnett), 3:20; Monarch – Neitenbach (Cirvo), 10:47; Regis Jesuit – Jake O’Neil (Brian Engh, Tony Tuccy), 16:22
Third period: Monarch – Cameron Gardner (Jake Christofferson, Burnett) (empty net), 16:32