SUPERIOR — For a team that draws its athletes from 10 different high schools, cohesiveness has been a bigger issue for the Monarch hockey team than hot opposing goaltenders and neutral zone traps.
But the Coyotes seemingly are starting to get to know one another. In turn, the victories are beginning to pile up.
Monarch won for the fourth time in five games on Saturday night, turning in a strong effort on the penalty kill while netting goals from four different players to post a 4-3 victory against Mullen in a Foothills League game at the Boulder Valley Ice Arena.
“We’re playing better together than ever,” junior Jake Christofferson said. “Everyone’s bonding. We’ve slowly become a family and that’s what you really need to do, especially as a hockey team. A lot of kids are from different hockey associations, but we’re starting to come together as a team and a family. That’s really what matters. Everyone was iffy at first. Now we’re a team and we’re playing better than ever. We’re looking to go far this year.”
Christofferson, Alex Michels, David Neitenbach, and Cameron Gardner scored the goals for a Monarch club that never trailed, but the Coyotes needed a standout effort from goalie Akira Kyle and the team’s penalty killers to keep the Mustangs at bay. Mullen enjoyed power-play opportunities in each period and drew within one goal after converting during a 5-on-3 advantage with 5:14 remaining.
After that tally, the Coyotes still had to play a man down for another 3:21, as the second infraction on freshman Noah Zimmerman was booked as a double minor. But Kyle and the Monarch penalty killers stood strong, and the Coyotes also preserved their one-goal lead over the final 47 seconds after a penalty and the pulling of Mustangs goalie Eric Bond gave Mullen another two-man advantage during its final push.
Overall, Mullen managed only one power-play goal in six chances.
“We just kept the pressure on them, and that makes it hard for them to get those passes across,” said Kyle, who finished with 24 saves. “We forced them to cough up the puck and then we were able to get it down to their end. We’re really working as a team on the penalty kill, and it helps me a lot when you’ve got a great team in front of you and they’re getting the puck down to the other zone.”
Monarch (5-3, 2-2 Foothills League) jumped to a 2-0 lead on goals by Michels and Neitenbach, but Mullen trimmed its deficit on a goal by Cameron Ghia with 36.3 seconds remaining in the first period. Christofferson’s tally midway through the second reestablished the Coyotes’ two-goal edge, but a turnover immediately in front of Kyle led to an unassisted shorthanded goal by Mullen’s Brady Brehm that trimmed Monarch’s lead to 3-2 going into the third.
Gardner scored what proved to be the game-winner early in the third off a feed from Max Shusterman.
“Guys going down and giving their body up blocking shots at the end was huge for us,” Monarch coach Jimmy Dexter said. “We’re real young, with mostly freshmen and sophomores. The first game these guys played, we were just real intimidated. We’ve got the skill, and they’re starting to realize they can play with anyone.”
Monarch 4, Mullen 3
At Boulder Valley Ice Arena.
Mullen (4-5, 1-3) 1 1 1 — 3
Monarch (5-3, 2-2) 2 1 1 — 4
Goals (assists) — Mullen: Ghia (Lee), 17th minute; Brehm (unassisted), 31st minute; Detine (Burkhardt), 46th minute.
Goalkeepers (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Mullen: Bond (51-4-17).
Goals (assists) — Monarch: Michels (Zimmerman), 4th minute; Neitenbach (unassisted), 17th minute; Christofferson (D. Kyle), 28th minute; Gardner (Shusterman, White), 41st minute.
Goalkeepers (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Monarch: A. Kyle (51-3-24).