Monarch hockey coach Jimmy Dexter presided over a memorable season for the Coyotes program last year. Yet he recalls two distinct instances when his team's youth clearly hurt the Coyotes.
Those two moments occurred at the bookends of the season.
The first occurred during the first week of the season, when the youthful Coyotes went up against a Resurrection Christian squad that eventually reached the Final Four of the state tournament. Monarch limped out of that 2011-12 debut having lost 9-1. Eight days later, the Coyotes suffered an 8-2 loss against eventual state champion Regis Jesuit.
Nevertheless, those lopsided setbacks failed to slow Monarch, which eventually put together a strong enough season to reach the state tournament for the third consecutive year. But that's when Dexter feels his team's youth was exposed again, as the Coyotes fell behind by two goals to the second-seeded defending state champs from Lewis-Palmer before an impressive rally fell short.
This year, just about everyone is back for Monarch. The bright eyes of youth and the inherent nerves of inexperience hardly will be an issue when the Coyotes open the 2012-13 campaign with a rematch against Resurrection Christian Friday night at the Boulder Ice Arena.
"We really only lost one kid from our contributors last year and we've also added a few kids," Dexter said. "The boys are really, really pumped and can't wait to get going. A lot of the guys have been busy with (club teams) so we haven't had a lot of togetherness yet. But once that's over we should be pretty strong across the board.
"Against LP we fell down (3-1) but we came back. We just couldn't score in the third period. With another year under our belt, I think that will help in those situations."
Monarch clearly has plenty of reasons to be excited. The Coyotes return their top eight point-producers from a year ago, including leading scorer Jake Christofferson. A senior this season, Christofferson recorded 20 goals, which was good for a tie for seventh-best in the state, while also adding 16 assists. Monarch's attack also welcomes back Dima Kyle (14 goals, 15 assists) and Walker Harris (seven goals, 14 assists), and this year the Coyotes expect to boast firepower on all four offensive lines.
"Walker Harris, he's been tearing it up in (club hockey)," Christofferson said. "We might play on a line together and I think I play really well with him. I think I'm going to struggle to keep up with him in points. It could help make us a totally different team this year."
In addition to returning most of its offense, Monarch also returns its top goaltender in Ian Oden, in addition to backup Akira Kyle. With the addition of several new defensemen, Dexter believes the Coyotes will be even stronger along the blue line.
On paper, it appears Monarch is well-stocked to break its string of three consecutive first-round losses in the state tournament.
"We'll be really deep this year," Dexter said. "Christofferson will get his points, but I think we'll have more depth on the second, third, and fourth lines. They can all be really productive for us."
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