Monarch and Regis have their eyes on the prize.
The cold winds of March howled through the streets of Denver in anticipation of what was to unfold at Magness Arena that evening. Finally, the 2017 CHSAA Colorado State Hockey Championship game was upon us, and with a rematch of last season's title game at hand, the stage was set for history to be made.
Last year once again ended in heartbreak for the Monarch Coyotes, as a perfect season came to an end in the championship game with a deflating 6-1 loss to the Regis Jesuit Raiders. That marked the fourth straight time Monarch had lost in the title game and had to watch someone else hoist the trophy. This year, a shot at redemption has them determined to avoid that scenario by claiming their first ever school hockey championship and making their opponent face that uncomfortable predicament.
The only problem with that plan was that the other team was no ordinary opponent. After defeating Monarch in last year's finals, Regis Jesuit ran through most of this season unscathed. That is until they faced off with the Coyotes toward the finish of the regular season, dropping that contest 3-0 to end the Raiders perfect run. Now Regis looks for pay back and the right to call themselves a dynasty, by claiming back-to-back state titles and five of the last ten Colorado hockey championships.
Nervous energy filled the opening period, as both teams took a while to get a feel for the game, resulting in a scoreless first. Regis Jesuit's Wyatt Verity got the Raiders on the board first with the only goal of the second just over six minutes into the period, with a far post snipe past the blocker and stick side to give the defending champs a 1-0 lead going into the final stanza.
#21 Wyatt Verity goes far post with this beauty to put the defending champion Regis Jesuit Raiders up 1-0 in the second period.
One of the many reasons that Regis is such an accomplished program is that they don't shoot themselves in the foot very often, and they make other teams pay for their mistakes when given an advantage. On the other hand, Monarch has been equally successful, spearheaded by their development of a deadly power play that can capitalize at any given moment. In the third period, the Raiders got away from their winning formula, and the Coyotes made them pay with a taste of their own medicine.
Just over a minute and a half into the third period, the Raiders would take a penalty, and the Coyotes would be in position to pounce. Connor Akerson would play a little high-low, give and go with Sal Pisciola (2A) that resulted in Akerson getting the puck back in front of the Regis net. From there, he would make no mistake about it by burying the game tying goal.
#47 Connor Akerson scores the game tying goal on the power play in the third period to knot it up at 1-1.
The Coyotes would ride the wave of momentum into another man advantage opportunity less than three minutes later. In the process of setting up their power play, Connor Akerson (who I'm convinced deserved an assist on the play) fought through two Regis defenders and slid the puck along the end boards to Sal Pisciola who found Monarch's all-time leading scorer Brendan Van Haute (1G, 1A) all alone in front of the Regis net for the top shelf game winner with 12:23 remaining.
Monarch's all-time leading scorer #9 Brendan Van Haute nets the biggest point on his bucket list with this beauty of a game winner for the 2-1 Colorado State Championship victory.
From there, it was another episode of the Logan Gorbitz show (26 SV, 1.0 GA, .963 SV%, W) as the Coyote goaltender once again saved his best for last, live and on the big stage. Combined with his late regular season 3-0 shutout that Gorbitz earned over the Raiders, the Monarch net minder has posted an impressive line (48 SV, 0.5 GAA, .979 SV%, SO, 2W) that includes a shutout, and now a 2-1 state championship victory versus Regis.
"Logan was unreal and it came down to our power play, it's been unbelievable all year and they showed it again tonight" said Monarch Head Coach Jimmy Dexter of his team's triumph. "Regis is so good, they took it to us in that first period, Gorby kept us in it and these guys kept fighting and we pulled it off."
#33 Logan Gorbitz makes one of his 26 saves to lead his Monarch Coyotes to a 2-1 Colorado State Championship.
For the Regis Jesuit Raiders, an unbelievable season comes to an end. The 2016 state champs have had an incredible run over these past couple of years. Head Coach Dan Woodley and his talented teams have amassed a resounding 42-3 record over those two seasons and will without a doubt be back as a force to reckon with next year.
After many trials and tribulations over the past five years, Monarch can finally claim some form of vindication. Five years of turmoil and frustration have come full circle with their first ever school hockey title. Congratulations to the 2016-17 Colorado State Champion Monarch Coyotes! "We did this for the Alumni, it's for the Alumni, for the kids that couldn't come out on top" said Monarch Captain and game winning goal scorer Brendan Van Haute. "That's who we're playing for, obviously playing for our teammates too, but boy did I want to go out on top."
We at Colorado Hockey Hub would like to take a moment to thank all of the people that came together to make this year's CHSAA Frozen Four and Colorado State Hockey Championship something to be proud. We feel privileged to have been such a big part of this tremendous event. A big stick tap goes out to our host the Colorado Avalanche, as well as CHSAA, CAHA, the University of Denver, all the great volunteers, fans, and the four fantastic teams that participated.