LITTLETON – Coming off a USA Hockey national championship in the spring, the Monarch hockey team’s expectations for itself are as high as ever.
And for a perennial playoff contender that won a Colorado state championship as recently as three years ago, that’s a lofty standard to set. With its next-level goals in mind on Monday, the Monarch Coyotes pushed their early-season record to 4-0 with a 7-1 victory over Dakota Ridge at Edge Ice Arena.
“We feel like we’ve got what it takes to go pretty deep in the playoffs again,” Monarch head coach Jimmy Dexter said. “We’ve played well through the first few games this season but we’ll need to stay sharp and stay focused because our next six games are against top five or six opponents. Coming out of the gates really well is good but we’ve got Valor coming up so we’ve got to keep it going.”
The Coyotes are ranked No. 2 in the latest CHSAANow.com poll and they have rolled through their first four games against unranked opponents. On Saturday, they will face No. 8 Valor Christian in a top-10 matchup that will kick off a string of challenging matches against ranked opponents like No. 7 Cherry Creek, No. 3 Ralston Valley, No. 4 Fort Collins and No. 6-ranked defending champion Regis Jesuit.
Once the Coyotes hit that gauntlet, they will be hoping for hot starts similar to the one they put together on Monday.
Against Dakota Ridge, the Coyotes scored six goals in the first period and put 24 shots on net to the Eagles’ six before the second period began. Drew Fehr scored twice before the first intermission, and the Coyotes spread the puck around with goals from Zach Jensen, Fuller Loose, Brennan Hill and Kooper Koinzan in the first period.
“We came out and had a really good first,” Dexter said. “We were moving really well and everyone was playing with good intensity. We’re looking to win as many games as we can during the regular season so we can get a good seed going into the playoffs. We think we’re a top four team in the state so we’re focused on playing like it every night.”
At the end of Monday’s game, the Coyotes outshot the Eagles, 41-12. Ethan Blackburn was excellent in the net as the Coyotes have allowed just three goals through their first four games.
“Picking up Ethan was huge for us,” Dexter said. “We feel like we have some good goal-scorers on our team but it’s going to be huge to have a big, athletic guy like him in goal because we’re not going to be able to shut everyone out and some of these teams we’re going to play have some really talented kids they can put out there on the power play. But so far, so good.”