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State hockey: Monarch won’t be intimidated by Regis this time around

Monarch's David Neitenbach, right, battles for the puck with a pair of Regis players during the two teams' Feb. 11 meeting that ended in a tie. The Coyotes and Raiders meet in Thursday's state semifinals at the University of Denver's Magness Arena.
Monarch’s David Neitenbach, right, battles for the puck with a pair of Regis players during the two teams’ Feb. 11 meeting that ended in a tie. The Coyotes and Raiders meet in Thursday’s state semifinals at the University of Denver’s Magness Arena.

A bit of awe and mystique surrounds the Regis Jesuit hockey team, and for good reason. The Raiders have won three of the past five state championships — including last season — when they went on to win a national tournament in Utah.

Pardon the Monarch hockey team, but the Coyotes aren’t as awestruck as before.

The Coyotes, who take on the Raiders in the semifinals Thursday night (8:30 p.m., Magness Arena), played Regis to a draw on Feb. 11. This time, it will just be about hockey, about two teams vying for a chance to compete in the championship game on Friday night.

“It’s good to know exactly who you’re up against,” said Coyotes senior forward Jake Christofferson, seemingly an all-state shoo-in with 26 goals and 28 assists. “Last time we played them, we came out really slow and a lot of the younger kids were a little intimidated. But I think we’re all ready for it now.”

Regis forwards Nathan Haas and Conner Wigton have topped the 20-goal plateau and goaltender Sam Harden has been on point all season for the Raiders (16-2-3).

But Monarch (18-1-2) counters with a similarly dynamic attack, led by Christofferson, linemate Walker Harris (21 goals, 26 assists), standout goaltender Ian Oden and a staunch blue line anchored by Justin White and DJ Burnett.

“I think our guys are pretty confident, and if we can play like we did Saturday night, I think we’ll have a really good chance,” said Monarch coach Jimmy Dexter, referring to a 6-2 win against Air Academy in the quarterfinals. “Our guys just kept coming, line after line.”

Penalties were an issue in the draw against Regis, but Dexter anticipates his players will “stay out of the box” this time. Christofferson believes the Coyotes can reach an even higher gear than what they’ve displayed so far.

“If we’re playing the way we’re playing now, we wouldn’t lose the hockey game,” he said. “It would just be tougher for us to battle through it. If we play to the level that we can achieve, we’ll come out on top this time.”

The Coyotes won’t completely be at full strength, as two players endured season-ending injuries in the opening rounds.

Left wing Joey Buchan suffered a lacerated spleen in the win against Air Academy. He was charging the net at full speed in hopes of getting a rebound goal, but veered around the Kadets goaltender after the puck was saved. He then was pushed from behind by an Air Academy player and into the boards.

The team visited Buchan at Children’s Hospital on Tuesday.

“He’s done for three months, I’d say,” Dexter said.

The Coyotes will continue to roll out four lines, and Mattijs Ossorio and Max Legere are candidates to replace Buchan.

In addition, defenseman Andrew Link suffered a concussion in Friday’s 12-2 first-round win against Lewis-Palmer and will not play. The Coyotes will go with a five-defenseman rotation rather than six with Link sidelined.

Ralston Valley and Resurrection Christian will meet in the other semifinal.

Follow Paul Willis on Twitter: @PaulWillis21