There isn't a group of players more proud of what they have built over the past few years than that of the Monarch hockey team.
A mishmash group of boys from schools all over the area have come together under coach Jimmy Dexter and have boasted a 55-8-5 record over the past three seasons — easily one of the best marks in Colorado.
There also isn't a group whose heart has been broken more. Three straight championship game appearances have netted three runner-up trophies — including last year's triple-overtime marathon against Cherry Creek, a 3-2 tear jerker.
That 2014-15 team, Dexter admitted, might have over-achieved in the truest form of the phrase, after graduating so many from the year before. But, there are plenty of holdovers from last year's team, and the masses have noticed in ranking them at the top for the 2015-16 season.
"We're excited at being ranked like that, but we're really just ready to get back at it I think," said Andrew Pickner, who attends Niwot High. "The state championship is the ultimate goal, and that doesn't come by being ranked No. 1 right now. But it's cool the other coaches and members of the media have us up there."
Let's face it, the Coyotes are at a point in their program where they will win most nights. Technically they'll be a team that can heavily out-shoot and out-control their opponents, an exciting team to watch pour in goals. They've proven that time and time again.
But the key, returning junior right winger Brendan Van Haute said, is not being content with being a great team most nights.
"There are a lot of things we can do, and it starts with not being complacent and not being happy with where we're at," Van Haute, a Boulder High student, said. "We have to come out every game and prove that we're the best in the state. The ranking motivates us to want to keep that until the very last game."
The Coyotes will have at least a couple top-tier scoring lines, as four of the top five goal-scorers from last year are back in Van Haute, Pickner, Blake Bride and Jake Young. Hunter Ingino and Andrew LeBlanc will see time as the MHS goalies — Ingino bringing with him a 2.72 goals-against average from last year as a secondary keeper.
Sam Hoffer, Majito Henderson and Ryan Uhland, along with some other staples in the lineup, are also back.
Where MoHi will be missing a couple of athletes that would be seniors this year are on the back end, as Ben Novy and Mattijs Ossorio elected to play for the RoughRiders organization.
"I think a lot of teams will be circling us on the calendar," Pickner said.
The Budweiser Events Center in Loveland will be the home of the hockey semifinals and championship game as it was last year, but the Coyotes are anticipating a couple of home games at the new Boulder Valley Ice at Superior, which will house three ice rinks and other amenities. It is adjacent to the current BVI building and should be ready for games in February.
"It'll be a great experience to play somewhere new," Van Haute said. "It's nice to bring that kind of a (venue) to Boulder and Superior."