SUPERIOR -- The Monarch hockey team has made a statement that it will be a force to reckon with in the Foothills Conference.
Yet the Coyotes learned on Monday that one hot streak does not automatically mean the squad already is in the same high-flying club as the league frontrunners. At least the scoring prowess of junior Jake Christofferson helped make certain the Coyotes' lesson was not a painful one.
Christofferson recorded a hat trick during a matinee showdown against Dakota Ridge, allowing the Coyotes to escape a sloppy, penalty-riddled game with a 4-1 victory at the Boulder Valley Ice Center. Monarch is unbeaten in its past six contests (5-0-1) and has posted a 7-1-1 mark in its past nine games.
It was Christofferson's first hat trick and third multiple-goal game of the season.
"Penalties hurt us and we really didn't play well at all," Monarch coach Jimmy Dexter said. "We just didn't have a lot of jump. Every once in a while you have one of those games. I think we played well in the third period, but the other two periods we did not play at all.
"These guys all of the sudden think they're good because they have won a few games. But I think we'll bounce back."
Monarch (8-3-1, 4-2-1 league) led 2-0 after the first period, getting a power-play goal from Christofferson and another tally from freshman David Neitenbach.
The Coyotes appeared destined for a blowout win against a Dakota Ridge club that entered the game with a 1-10 mark, but the Eagles managed to stay in the contest during a wildly ugly second period.
The teams combined for 11 penalties in the second period and 22 overall.
With much of the second frame played during 5-on-3, 4-on-4, or even 4-on-3 situations, Dakota Ridge was able to pull within a goal on a 4-on-4 tally by Ross Brauer. Christofferson's second goal, though, re-established the Coyotes' two-goal edge going into the third.
"We had a really slow start," said Christofferson, a Niwot student who increased his goal total to 11. "We just had our heads not in the right place. We thought we were going to walk all over these guys, and it showed. We took a lot of stupid penalties, and that could have broke the team. We easily could have lost. We were lucky we hopped on them early."
Christofferson's final tally with about 10 minutes remaining finally gave Monarch a comfortable cushion, and goaltender Akira Kyle did the rest. The sophomore out of Fairview High School stopped 23-of-24 shots to earn the win, while Joey Buchan and Dima Kyle each contributed two assists.
Although Monarch was able to continue its hot streak, the Coyotes will need a better effort when they host Resurrection Christian on Friday night.
The Cougars are among a group of three teams ahead of Monarch with one loss within the league, and they also handed the Coyotes a 9-1 loss in the first game of the season almost two months ago.
"Christofferson just has a knack for the net," said Dexter, whose club outshot Dakota Ridge 53-24. "When he gets a chance, he usually finishes. A lot of our other guys had chances and just couldn't finish. We'll have to play a lot better against Resurrection Christian if we want to compete with them. We've got a couple practices this week and we'll be ready for Resurrection."
Monarch 4, Dakota Ridge 1
At Boulder Valley Ice Center
Dakota Ridge (1-11, 1-5) 0 1 0 -- 1
Monarch (8-3-1, 4-2-1) 2 1 1 -- 4
Goals (assists) -- Dakota Ridge: Ross Brauer (Kaden Hummell, Zach Czarnecki), 25th minute; Monarch: Jake Christofferson (Cameron Taggert, Mac Simonson), 10th minute; David Neitenbach (Thomas Evans, Joey Buchan), 12th minute; Christofferson (Buchan, Dima Kyle), 27th minute; Christofferson (Walker Harris, Kyle), 41st minute.
Goalkeepers (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) -- Dakota Ridge: Cody Giles (51-4-49); Monarch: Akira Kyle (51-1-23).