LOUISVILLE — The Colorado high school hockey state championships didn't end as hoped for the Monarch Coyotes, who bowed out after a semifinals loss to Valor Christian.
But the Coyotes' season didn't end there.
Last weekend, the Coyotes competed in the USA Hockey National Championships in Plymouth, Minn., and finished runner-up in the Division II bracket. The Coyotes fell short of yet another title this season, yet recovering from a tough in-state loss to do even better at the national level was some consolation.
"It went really well out there except we lost in the finals, which wasn't great," Coyotes head coach Jimmy Dexter said. "The puck just didn't want to go in for us in that finals game but we played unreal. We were playing our best hockey. We were talking all year about how with our talent we could win a national championship. After the boys lost in the state semis, we had some great practices leading up to nationals and the boys were just ready to work hard and were really focused."
In the Division II national finals against Sioux City (Iowa), the Coyotes fell 3-2 despite outshooting and largely outplaying their opponent. Having defeated Sioux City by a score of 8-1 during pool play, Dexter estimated the Coyotes had 20 good scoring chances in the finals but just couldn't put the puck in the net, hitting several pipes and crossbars in the game. Playing a total of six games in five days, they finished the tournament with a 5-1 record. As usual, Dexter added, forwards Leo Felt and Connor Akerson were fantastic and Yuta Young was solid as ever on defense.
Returning to nationals after a year off and also fielding a girls team this season, the Coyotes weren't the only team from Colorado to play on the big stage. Two-time national champion Regis Jesuit finished runner-up in Division I after knocking out Valor Christian in the national semifinals. Placing two teams in the national title games, and having three reach the semifinals of better, was yet another big step towards Colorado establishing itself as one of the top hockey states in the country.
"To have three Colorado teams is unbelievable," Dexter said. "Colorado hockey is a top four league in the country now and just keeps getting better and better. We keep adding kids and getting more people involved. We feel like we can pretty much play with anybody."