Numerical rosters will be a must for Monarch hockey fans for the first few weeks of the season. Yes, there are that many new faces on the roster.
But that doesn’t mean the Coyotes are going to fall back to the pack after two straight appearances in the state championship game.
“We’re definitely going to have a huge turnover and a lot of new guys, but I think we’re going to be right there again,” Monarch coach Jimmy Dexter said. “I’m excited with the group of kids I have. A lot of them are young, but they’re good players, so I think we’re going to be right in it.”
Most pressing for the Coyotes is the Walker Harris situation. Their leading scorer from last season is playing junior hockey for the Rocky Mountain Roughriders. He said he is “trying to make it all work,” but it might not be a possibility.
CHSAA rules indicate a player must compete in 15 regular-season games to be eligible for the playoffs, presumably to prevent teams from stockpiling their roster with junior hockey-type players when the playoffs begin.
Harris, who registered 20 goals and 29 assists last season, is determining whether that is possible. If not, Dexter won’t have Harris make an occasional cameo for the Coyotes, indicating that he has 25 other guys on his roster that need time and need to gear up for a potential postseason run.
The Coyotes lost another player to junior hockey in junior goaltender Bailey Aust, who has fled to Topeka, Kansas. Monarch has a trio of goaltenders vying for the primary role, with sophomore Hunter Ingino the early frontrunner.
In addition, talented defenseman Keo Jamieson endured a season-ending shoulder injury while playing midget-major hockey and won’t be available. Another of the Coyotes’ top penalty killers, David Neitenbach, appears to be concentrating on baseball and hasn’t been practicing with the team.
It might sound like the Coyotes have lost everyone from last season’s 19-2-2 squad, but that’s not the case. Top defenseman Justin White returns for his senior season, and a talented corps of forwards is led by incumbents Alec Michaels, Blake Bride, Jake Young and Adam Tybor.
White scored seven goals and added 16 assists from the back line last season, and Bride burst onto the scene as a sophomore with seven goals and eight assists. Michaels, Young and Tybor combined for 10 goals and 17 assists.
“I feel solid. But with that being said, we have a lot of work to do,” White said. “Work building chemistry and building individual skill as well, because there’s a lot of players on our team who won’t be caught up with the level of high school hockey. Just the level of intensity and the quick pace, quick decisions.”
The Coyotes won’t resemble the squads that have gone 38-4-4 over the past two seasons with all the losses against two-time state champ Ralston Valley. Not on a face-to-face basis, anyway. But they might resemble those teams in one key facet — that they’ll regularly win.
“There’s a lot that is put on our shoulders, in my opinion,” White said of the handful of returning players. “Just leading on the ice and in the locker room. Sometimes you have to get on guys’ backs who aren’t taking it as serious as other players.”
Monarch was designated the No. 5-ranked team in the opening CHSAANow.com poll, selected after top-ranked Ralston Valley, Regis Jesuit, Cherry Creek and Mountain Vista. The Coyotes open at home Saturday against Palmer.
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