LOUISVILLE — As anticipated when the bracket was released on Sunday, the Monarch hockey team was awarded a No. 1 seed in the state tournament at the end of a perfect regular season.
But the Coyotes found themselves a bit surprised at the difficult playoff road it had earned them. That road begins with eighth-seeded Heritage on Friday at Boulder Valley Ice.
"Unfortunately, I think we have the toughest road we can get considering we're a one seed," Monarch head coach Jimmy Dexter said. "When you're the one seed, you usually get an easier road. But that's just how the chips fell."
If the Coyotes (18-0) don't slip up against Heritage (9-10), they will face either fourth-seeded Doherty (13-4) or fifth-seeded Dakota Ridge (15-4).
Dexter believes there to a significant talent drop-off after what he believes to be the top five teams - Monarch, No. 2 Regis Jesuit, No. 3 Ralston Valley, No. 1 Mountain Vista and No. 5 Dakota Ridge. Dakota Ridge and Ralston Valley appear to be the most significant threats to the Coyotes reaching their fourth straight title game. The Coyotes defeated Dakota Ridge 3-2 during the regular season and beat Ralston Valley 5-1.
Monarch lost 3-2 to defending champion Cherry Creek in last year's state title game. The Coyotes fell 4-1 to Ralston Valley in 2014 and 5-1 to Ralston Valley in 2013.
"It has been an unbelievable season to go undefeated but that means nothing now," Dexter said. "We're in single elimination now so it's a whole new season. We'll have tough games but we are playing really great hockey and we think we can win it. I like our chances for sure and we're looking forward to it. We'll just need to keep playing our best."
The bracket is seeded base on final regular season standings in the Foothills and Peak leagues. Based on the bracket's layout, any rematch between Monarch and defending champion Cherry Creek (No. 4) or season-long No. 2 Regis Jesuit (No. 2), which Monarch defeated 3-0 earlier in the year, would have to come in the finals.
Rounds one and two will be played at the host sites of the highest seeded teams. The Final Four and state championships will be played at the Budweiser Events Center in Loveland.
CHSAA ice hockey state tournament
First round, Friday
(8) Heritage at (1) Monarch, at Boulder Valley Ice, 2 p.m.
(5) Doherty at (4) Dakota Ridge, at Boulder Valley Ice, 4:20 p.m.
(7) Resurrection Christian at (2) Denver East, at Big Bear North, 2:45 p.m.
(6) Valor Christian at (3) Ralston Valley, at Big Bear South, 2 p.m.
(7) Cheyenne Mountain at (2) Regis Jesuit, at Family Sports Center, 5:45 p.m.
(6) Steamboat Springs at (3) Lewis-Palmer, at Family Sports Center, 8 p.m.
(5) Liberty at (4) Cherry Creek, at South Suburban, 7:45 p.m.
(8) Aspen at (1) Mountain Vista, at South Suburban, 6:20 p.m.
Quarterfinals at host sites on Saturday
Semifinals at Budweiser Events Center, March 3
Championship game at Budweiser Events Center, March 5