LITTLETON — Typically, when the Monarch hockey team is registering so many shots even the official scorer has difficulties keeping count, it equates to a sizable win for the second-ranked Coyotes.
That wasn’t the case Thursday at the Edge Ice Arena, but the visiting Coyotes took care of business with a 3-1 win against No. 8 Columbine despite a standout goaltending effort from sophomore Forrest Czarnecki in the Foothills League contest.
“We put a lot more shots on the net than they did,” Monarch defenseman Justin White said. “That could have been a 10-0 game but their goalie stood right on his head.”
Indeed, Monarch (16-1-1, 12-1-0) outshot the Rebels 49-21, but never was able to turn it into a blowout. Most important for the Coyotes, they kept intact their ambitions of being one of the state’s four playoff hosts. That goal can be realized with a win or tie at Regis Jesuit on Friday in the regular-season finale.
Monarch got on the board 2 minutes, 25 seconds into the opening period on a strange play. Cameron Gardner poke-checked a puck and it lazily drifted toward the net. Acting like a changeup, Czarnecki whiffed on it.
“It just kind of slid through,” Gardner said. “He just missed the poke-check and it went right in. But after he got a few shots on him, he started to get the feel for it and get in his zone.”
Czarnecki, starting in place of Rebels No. 1 goalkeeper Ashton Opperman, mostly withstood an unrelenting barrage of Coyotes shots through the first two periods. He made 40 of his 46 saves in that span, many in spectacular fashion.
White and Walker Harris sneaked goals passed him in the second period, though, and the Coyotes took a 3-0 lead into the third.
“We could have had a lot more after two, but the goalie did really well,” Monarch coach Jimmy Dexter said. “Then in the third, we took some stupid penalties. The last two games we’ve been concentrating on not taking mental penalties, but then in the third, it happened again.”
Columbine (11-7-1, 8-6-0) came out charged up in the final period and flipped the script on Monarch’s dominant tempo. Andy Wright scored a breakaway goal 6:18 into the period – the lone shot of the Rebels’ 21 to get by goaltender Ian Oden – and Monarch had to navigate through a few five-on-three situations to nail down the win.
“They got some momentum and they made it interesting, definitely,” Dexter said. “I wish we could have played the third period like we did the first two. Everybody was flying.”
A season-long theme for the Coyotes has been to cut down on penalties. It’s the only apparent blemish on the high-scoring squad, but the solution remains a work in progress.
“I think our biggest weakness as a unit is taking penalties,” White said. “After the play, lazy penalties, and as a team we really need to stop that. We have a great penalty-kill, but they’re not going to be able to stand on their head every time.
“If we’re playing teams like Ralston or Regis and we commit penalties, those are the teams that are going to bury on us.”
Added Gardner: “We definitely need to take our penalties down a notch, but I think we’ll have some momentum going into the playoffs after we play Regis tomorrow.”
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Monarch 3, Columbine 1
At Edge Ice Arena
Monarch (16-1-1, 12-1-0) 1 2 0 — 3
Columbine (11-7-1, 8-6-0) 0 0 1 — 1
Goals (assists) — 1st period — Monarch; Cameron Gardner, 2:25; 2nd period — Monarch: Justin White (Kevin Palm, Adam Tybor), 3:28; Monarch: Walker Harris (Drew Wagner, Cameron Taggart); 3rd period — Columbine: Andy Wright, 6:18.
Goalies (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Monarch: Ian Oden (51-1-20); Columbine: Forrest Czarnecki (51-3-46).