SENIOR SERIES: A profile look at triumphs and struggles experienced by some Aurora senior prep athletes in the time of the coronavirus pandemic:
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports
The ice at rinks around the metro area has gone soft thanks to the coronavirus, but Luke Flay knows he will eventually end up back on it.
Flay — a senior at Cherokee Trail High School who was part of the Cherry Creek co-op ice hockey team in the winter season — secured a future in his sport in junior hockey despite the pandemic after he recently signed with the Boston Junior Rangers.
Flay gives an assist to Cherry Creek coach Jeff Mielnicki, who recommended him to the Rangers, who extended a contract offer to him without having seen him in person.
“I would normally be doing showcases over the summer, but they all got canceled because of the coronavirus,” Flay told the Sentinel. “So this team I’m going to play for hasn’t even seen me skate yet. It was just word of mouth from my coach and thankfully they trust him.”
Flay has been on skates since he was 4 years old and his dad used to space out M&M candies on the ice to motivate him. He was thankful that the coronavirus arrived too late to keep him from playing his whole senior hockey season and especially glad he gave up playing baseball
He was an outstanding piece as a defender for Mielnicki’s Cherry Creek team — which blended players from schools all over Cherry Creek Schools — which went to the quarterfinals before losing an overtime heartbreaker to eventual runner-up Fort Collins.
Despite the game ending in defeat, Flay felt he played his best game in his last game. As a leader on the backline, Flay helped the Bruins get back on track defensively — after having a serious conversation with his dad, Rob, who joined the Cherry Creek team this year as the defensive coach — after a rough opening period, then scored the goal that eventually sent the game to overtime.
A fluky goal brought the game to an end sooner than the Bruins felt it should have.
“That game was very hard and everybody on our team knew should have won that game,” Flay said. “We had them on their heels the whole time and they got a lucky bounce for a goal to end it. We fought to the end, that’s all that matters. Everybody was satisfied with their efforts, maybe not the outcome, but it wasn’t meant to be.
“As soon as that puck went in, we didn’t really care about the game anymore, we just cared that it was over and it was the last time we would play together.”
In addition to his leadership and skills in the back, Flay finished with 10 assists and six goals, which netted him some postseason accolades.
He was picked on the Sentinel’s All-Aurora ice hockey first team and made the All-Foothills Conference second team as well, while he was among the last cuts for the team that was going to represent Colorado in the CCM National Invitational Tournament in Minnesota.
Flay’s always been into a lot of things and has a lot of paths his future could take.
After he dabbled with engineering and photography, Flay has taken to business recently. He took a business class as the Cherry Creek’s new Innovation Campus this year and had hoped to launch a custom paint business as part of the class before campuses were closed by the coronavirus.
Flay still plans to try to open the business on his own before he heads off to Boston in late August, where he hopes he can finally put his skills on display for the Rangers. He’s been working on shooting in his basement with a tarp as a target, but not having the feeling of being on the ice is something that can’t be replicated.
“That is scary for me; you feel like you are going to be rusty and not have that edge you usually have,” Flay said. “But the fact that everybody is going through this definitely eases my mind.”
Flay’s goal with the Junior Rangers is play well enough to which could give him the chance to get picked up by an NCAA program.
The future might also hold a coaching career for Flay, who does some instruction with youth hockey players and also works during summers at sports day camps in addition to coaching his brother’s baseball team.
“I like helping out kids, seeing them grow and become better,” Flay said. “It’s super cool.”
SENTINEL PREPS’ SENIOR SERIES