DENVER - It finally happened.
After reaching the Colorado state championship for four straight years only to lose each time, the Monarch ice hockey team finally broke through and won the program's first state championship. The Monarch boys defeated defending champion Regis Jesuit 2-1 in the state title game at the University of Denver's Magness Arena on Monday night.
Fittingly, it was all-time leading scorer Brendan Van Haute who scored the winning goal. After the game, Van Haute could barely catch his breath and said he had never before felt the combination of elation and relief that he experienced once the game clock read zeros.
"I mean, wow that felt good when the buzzer went off," Van Haute said. "I wasn't sure if I even heard it. Our defense played an outstanding game and it took us a while to get going but we went into the second intermission and we just said, 'We're going to do this.'"
There were plenty of moments on Monday night when it appeared the Coyotes (16-4-3) were in line to reach their fifth-straight title game only to have the coveted trophy snatched from their fingertips yet again.
After Regis forward Wyatt Verity scored in the second period, the Coyotes trailed the Raiders (20-2), who defeated them 6-1 in last year's state title game, 1-0 after the first two periods. But 1 minute, 51 seconds into the third period, Coyotes forward Conner Akerson tied the game.
With 12:23 left in the game, Van Haute scored his 20th goal of the season to put the Coyotes ahead.
Despite a furious attack from the Raiders, who pulled their goalie with two minutes left in the game, goalkeeper Logan Gorbitz and the Coyotes held tight to the lead and captured the elusive title.
"Coming into the game, I knew it would be tough because they are a tremendous team and their goalie was playing a great game," Gorbitz said. "But going into that third period, coach is standing over here in the tunnel and shouting at us, 'Are you guys ready to win a state championship?' That's what we did in the third period, we never gave up and finished the game out strong."
Gorbitz finished with 26 saves and kept the Coyotes in the game until they were able to score a pair of power-play goals, both of which were assisted by Sal Pisciola.
For one of the state's elite programs, and one that draws its players from nine different schools, this was a season that had relatively low expectations compared to last year's near undefeated campaign after which the Coyotes graduated 17 seniors.
"These guys continue to amaze me," Coyotes head coach Jimmy Dexter said. "I never thought we'd be here. At the beginning of the year, we struggled both mentally and physically. But they came together as a group and did something unbelievable."
Monarch 2, Regis Jesuit 1
At Magness Arena at DUMonarch (16-4-3) 0 0 2 — 2
Regis Jesuit (20-2) 0 1 0 — 1
Goals (assists) — Monarch: Conner Akerson (Sal Pisciola, Brendan Van Haute), 35:51; Brendan Van Haute (Sal Pisciola), 38:37; Regis Jesuit: Wyatt Verity (Anders Erickson), 23:11.
Goalies (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Monarch: Logan Gorbitz (51-1-26); Regis Jesuit: Dillon Whalen (49-2-23).