Regis Jesuit back to old, championship form
Before Ralston Valley took over the Colorado high school hockey scene the past two seasons, it was all about Regis Jesuit.
The Raiders won three state championships in a five-year span and, in 2012, went on to win a USA Hockey national championship in Utah.
Well, don’t forget about the Raiders quite yet. They’re back with a vengeance this season, and rocketed to a 15-0 start as the calendar turned to February to reclaim the top spot in the rankings.
While that hardly means another championship is a certainty, the Raiders are just happy to be back in the forefront.
“This year, we’ve really focused on working hard in practice, doing all the little things and making the right decisions,” junior forward Cale Woodley said. “We started doing a weight-lifting program to make our team stronger, and we’ve just been bonding.”
It’s not as if Regis disappeared the past two seasons. The Raiders were solid in that span with a combined 33-7-4 record and two trips to the state semifinals (losing to Monarch each time). While that was a vastly successful stretch, it didn’t cut it for a team that’s championship or bust each season.
“This is what we’ve wanted all year – to be the No. 1 team and just the top competitive team out there,” said Woodley, who was tied for second in the state in scoring through 15 games.
Woodley’s 35 points (17 goals) left him behind only Air Academy’s Travis Work (39 points) and tied with Air Academy’s Sam Thrutchley. Many other Regis players decorated the leaderboard.
Senior Connor Brennan (10 goals, 18 assists) was 10th in scoring, and junior Jack Jordan (10, 16) was tied for 12th. Classmate Jack Kilkenny was tied for 25th with six goals and 15 assists.
One major question mark for the Raiders this season was how they were going to replace standout goaltender Sam Harden. Sam Gartner has been up to the challenge.
“He’s striving to prove himself every day,” Raiders coach Dan Woodley said. “I think that’s a good mindset for him.”
Gartner started 13-0 with a 1.32 goals-against average, just another part of the Raiders’ renaissance.
“I’d attribute a lot of our continued growth to the kids committing to the club early on in their high school careers,” Dan Woodley said. “That way they get three or sometimes four years of consistent training. Add to that, we brought in a new coach in Zach Blom who’s really helped.”
Blom is a former University of Denver player who’s a coach with the Colorado Thunderbirds, widely considered the state’s premier youth hockey organization.
The Raiders have been careful not to profess themselves as a favorite, as the state’s high school landscape is continuing to evolve and squads such as Dakota Ridge are working their way into contention.
“I’d say it’s a little more wide open this season,” Dan Woodley said. “Last year, I could count five teams that had a legitimate chance to win the whole thing. This year, I’d say there’s up to seven teams that I’ve seen that have a legitimate chance, maybe even eight or nine.”
But make no mistake, Regis undoubtedly has the look of the red-clad Raiders of old.
– Paul Willis