DENVER -- While the sting from a championship-game loss understandably will take some time to subside, it's not all doom and gloom for the Monarch hockey team.
After all, there's no reason to think the Coyotes can't put together a similar run next season.
Monarch will graduate only four seniors from this squad. Yes, leading scorer Jake Christofferson is one and that is a hefty loss, as are the departures of fellow forwards Jake Orsborn and Max Legere and defenseman Alex Barber, who scored the Coyotes' lone goal Friday night in a 5-1 title-game loss to Ralston Valley. But the Coyotes remain stacked otherwise.
"We've got a lot of young talent on this team," Barber said. "Even though we're losing four seniors, they're definitely going to be back next year ready to win it all."
Led by high-scoring sophomore Walker Harris (21 goals, 26 assists this season) and the return of top goaltender Ian Oden, the Coyotes figure to remain a potent group.
"I'm really excited," Coyotes coach Jimmy Dexter said. "If all these guys come back, I think we'll be real strong next year too."
Just trim the sides
The Monarch coaching staff walked to the bench about 20 minutes before the game to somewhat sarcastic applause. The reason?
All were sporting mohawks -- haircuts they did not have the previous night for the semifinals.
"The boys all cut their hair with mullets and lines and the whole deal, so we wanted to show them how much support we have for them," Dexter said.
If Dexter had one complaint in the regular season, it was that the Coyotes were in the penalty box too much. Put on notice, Monarch responded.
In two nights at Magness Arena, the Coyotes committed only two penalties. One was inconsequential in a 5-2 semifinals win against Regis Jesuit, but Ralston Valley turned the Coyotes' lone penalty into a power-play goal by Darius Maes in the first period Friday.
"It's something we battled all year and we'd been trying to make changes," Dexter said. "We've talked to guys about having good habits, because you can't just flip a switch. Come playoff time, we really turned the corner."
Anna Orsborn, sister of the aforementioned Monarch forward, sang the National Anthem prior to both the semifinals and championship game. ... Forward Joey Buchan (lacerated spleen) and defenseman Andrew Link (concussion) did not play in the semifinals or title game. Each suffered his injury in the opening weekend of the postseason. ... Ralston Valley defenseman Nathan Mikesell said the turning point "was probably their goal. After they scored, it kind of woke us up a little."
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