LITTLETON — Leave it to Valor Christian to stand in the way of what could have been a season-best, three-game winning streak for Monarch.
A bit of thorn in their side of late, former University of Denver coach Gordon Gwozdecky’s team beat the Coyotes for a third straight time — this, a 3-0 victory at The Ice Ranch on Saturday afternoon.
As recent history goes, the Eagles ousted Monarch in the state semifinals last season and also gave the Coyotes an earlier-season loss on Dec. 7.
“We have to play our best to beat them,” Monarch coach Jimmy Dexter said afterward. “We had some breakdowns positioning in our end and you can’t — we have to play a perfect game to beat those guys.”
Goalie Dylan Sheets was very good in net — if not spectacular at times — stopping 25 shots in the loss. The senior came into the afternoon saving more than 90 percent of the shots he’s faced this season.
But Monarch (6-6-2) didn’t convert at the other end on a big and talented goalie in Trey Hirschfield, and was outshot 28-18.
Simply, the Highlands Ranch sports empire was too much.
“It’s always tough because they’re such a competitive team,” Sheets said. “They’re really good. It’s always hard to beat them, and when we do it’s really exciting.”
Sheets did his part, and some — at one point even pushing aside a rifling shot before leaping across an open net to deny a rebound chance. But Valor eventually broke through.
Cole Cavey scored on a power play with 1:46 left in the opening period to put the Eagles up 1-0. The senior defenseman corralled a pass from Evan Pahos above the circles and flipped a shot through traffic and past Sheets.
Pahos added another dish in the second when he found Caleb Pallo in front of the net. And Mason Hoehn added a third goal in the waning seconds of the period.
The Eagles (13-2-1) improved to 13-0-1 this season when scoring at least two goals.
“I thought Dylan played really well,” Dexter said. “Two of the goals weren’t Dylan’s fault. We were just in a bad position and they made a really nice play, too.”
It wasn’t all doom and gloom for Monarch, though.
Dexter said he still believes his team, which played its first game in more than a week following dominant victories over Standley Lake and Resurrection Christian, is headed in the right direction with the state playoffs two weeks away.
Sheets and a few nice offensive sequences were among reasons for optimism. Luke Radney set up a breakaway chance with a nifty move along the boards in the opening period. He streaked down the far side of the ice before slamming a chance off Hirschfield. On the rebound, Tyler Hester couldn’t quite get enough of a stick on it to put the Coyotes in front.
Zack Given also had a nice look in the second, but his shot clanged off the crossbar.
“I think we’re still improving,” Dexter said. “We got to bury our chances and we got to play sound defensively where we had some breakdowns today.”
The Coyotes will travel to Dakota Ridge for a 2:30 p.m. puck-drop on Monday.
Brent W. New: email@example.com and @brentwnew
Valor Christian 3, Monarch 0
At The Ice Ranch
Monarch (6-6-2) 0 0 0 0
Valor Christian (13-2-1) 1 2 0 3
Goals (assists) — Monarch: No goals scored. Valor Christian: Cavey (Pahos, Browne), first period, 15:14; Pallo (Pahos, Routzon), second period, 5:09; Hoehn (McCall, Browne), second period, 16:26.
Goalies (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Monarch: Sheets 54-3-25; Valor Christian: Hirschfield 54-0-18