Sean Holloway (11) registered two assists for the Regis Jesuit ice hockey teams in playoff wins over Mountain Vista and Denver East. The Raiders play Valor Christian in the Frozen Four on March 5, 2020, at Pepsi Center. (Photo by Courtney Oakes/Sentinel Colorado)

To say this season has been different for the Regis Jesuit ice hockey team would be an understatement.

The Raiders lost early to Denver East and dropped six games in the regular season — more than the previous five-plus seasons combined — have scored fewer goals than 16 other teams and were rocked emotionally late in the season with the news of the loss of head coach Dan Woodley’s son, Cale.

Despite all that, Regis Jesuit is back in an accustomed spot in the state’s Frozen Four — where it’s appeared in 13 consecutive seasons — with a chance to win a third straight state title, something that hasn’t been done in Colorado prep hockey since Cheyenne Mountain won four straight between 1988 and 1991.

Before they can play for the state title, however, they have to get past top-seeded and fierce rival Valor Christian, their opponent in a semifinal contest at 5 p.m. March 5 at the Pepsi Center. No. 2 Chaparral and No. 3 Fort Collins square off the in later game.

Regis Jesuit (13-6-2) got a first round bye as the No. 5 overall seed and then got through the first two rounds of the postseason with veteran assistant coach Terry Ott on the bench in place of Woodley, who was away with his family after the tragic death of his son, a former Regis Jesuit star who helped the Raiders win the 2016 state crown.

“Once the puck dropped, the game was probably easier to play than all the stuff leading up to it and the emotion that will hopefully carry through the 10th of March,” Ott said after Regis Jesuit’s 5-1 win over Mountain Vista Feb. 28.

“The game was great, the community support from Regis Jesuit, the whole hockey community and the other high schools has been fantastic,” he added.

Leighton Walsh — one of only five seniors on a team that is also atypical for Regis Jesuit in terms of experience — scored on the first shift of the Mountain Vista game to set the tone and added a shorthanded score in the second period.

The Raiders turned around and played fourth-seeded Denver East — which topped them 4-3 Dec. 13 — in the quarterfinals and came away with a 4-2 as William Laws scored twice.

“We all know what Coach Woodley has done for us and what his son, Grant, has done and we just want to go out and prove to them they taught us well,” Walsh said.

Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected]: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports


5 p.m., March 5 at Pepsi Center

BREAKDOWN: Regis Jesuit and Valor Christian renew their rivalry on the ice that has been fierce both in the regular season and in the postseason, including a matchup between the teams in the 2018 state championship game won by the Raiders. …The teams met twice during the regular season in Foothills Conference play. They played to a 2-2 tie on Jan. 24 at Family Sports Center in a game that saw Robbie Dembeck and Hero Schmidt score goals in the final six minutes of regulation to rally Regis Jesuit from a 2-0 deficit and Valor Christian emerged with a 3-2 win Feb. 8 at The Ice Ranch after it scored three times in the first half and Nolan Sargent tallied twice for Regis Jesuit in the final period. …In the postseason, fifth-seeded Regis Jesuit (13-6-2) had a first round bye and then topped Mountain Vista (5-1) and Denver East (4-2) in back-to-back games at Big Bear Ice Arena to reach the semifinals. Seven players scored at least one goal for Regis Jesuit in the victories, while Leighton Walsh and William Laws each had two. Eight Raiders picked up at least one assist as well with Walsh leading the way with three and Laws, Sean Holloway and Kai Oganeku with two apiece. Gage Bussey started both playoff games in the net for Regis Jesuit and saved 43 of the 46 shots he faced…Valor Christian, the tournament’s top seed, had a bye in the opening round and posted a 5-2 win over Kent Denver in the second round, followed by a 3-0 shutout of Pine Creek in the quarterfinals. Colton Carlson owns three postseason goals for the Eagles (18-2-1), who have five other players with single scores, while Mason Hoehn has a team-best four assists and Ryan Kayser has three. Valor Christian started different goalies in each game with Brendan Williams drawing the start against Kent Denver and making 15 saves, while Trey Hirschfield had a 12-save shutout

WINNER GETS: The Regis Jesuit-Valor Christian winner moves into the state championship game at 7:30 p.m. March 10 at Pepsi Center where it will face either No. 2 Chaparral or No. 3 Fort Collins. Both teams split two-game conference series with Chaparral and each won against Fort Collins in single meetings.