• Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer

    The Monarch hockey team returned from Canada last week after going 2-1 in the Silver Stick tournament.

  • Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer

    Monarch keeper Reese Kelly made 30 saves during a Silver Stick tournament game in Canada last week.



LOUISVILLE — After finally winning the state championship on its fifth consecutive try last season, the Monarch ice hockey team is doing everything it can to keep it.

For the Coyotes, that means traveling far and wide to face the best competition possible in order to sharpen their talents before the 2018 state tournament begins in late February. After all, it took traveling out of the country for the defending champions to locate their first loss of the 2017-18 winter season.

In a finals tournament of the International Silver Stick Hockey Association, the Coyotes went to Canada last weekend and finished with a 2-1 record against three teams from Canada and Pennsylvania. After qualifying through a regional tournament while playing in the Colorado Prep Hockey League prior to the Colorado High School Activities Association season, they received every bit the test they had hoped to find across the border.

“We play in the CPHL before the season and we did a tournament called Silver Sticks that has regional qualifiers around the U.S. and Canada,” Monarch head coach Jimmy Dexter said. “We won the qualifier here and were able to move on to the Silver Sticks International so we blacked out that weekend of this season so we could play that up there.”

Currently ranked second in Colorado by the poll, the Coyotes lost 4-1 to Red Reeve Thunder on Jan. 13 at the end of a game in which goalkeeper Reese Kelly made 30 saves. After facing one of the premier teams in Canada, the Coyotes won 2-1 over the Kent Cobras out of Ontario with forward Leo Felt scoring both goals. Rounding out the Canada trip, the Coyotes won 6-1 against the Pennsylvania-based Lehigh Phantoms with all lines scoring.

Dexter was not only pleased with how his team fared against some of the toughest competition he could find, but also with how the Coyotes dealt with their first loss.

“When you go up there, it’s teams from around the U.S. and Canada that have won that qualifier,” Dexter said. “One, two, three, four and 16 from Ontario were in our bracket. It was great to see the teams we were matched up against and our one loss was to the No. 1 team from Ontario. We didn’t get to move on but it was good for our boys to see some really good competition.

“It’s good for us. Our boys were excited to play them, and they wanted to play them again and thought they could win that tournament if they had another shot.”

Since returning from Canada, the Coyotes defeated Ralston Valley on Friday. Their title defense continues against No. 7 Resurrection Christian on Saturday night.

Brad Cochi: 404-234-5919, or