CPHL another worthy high school option
Since its inception in 2013, the Colorado Prep Hockey League (CPHL) continues to reach new heights.
The USA Hockey-sanctioned circuit began with six teams – Cherry Creek, Cheyenne Mountain, Columbine, Heritage, Regis Jesuit and Resurrection Christian – and was launched in an effort to organize fall high school teams.
There were a few high school programs that had been playing fall scrimmages for a couple of years – Heritage, Regis Jesuit and Resurrection Christian among them – but there was no structure, and those involved wanted teams to have to compete to earn Colorado’s bid to the USA Hockey High School National Championships.
In the fall of 2014, the CPHL boasted 12 varsity and a half-dozen junior varsity teams. A winter season was also added for school districts and schools who don’t have Colorado High School Activity Association (CHSAA) teams.
This coming fall, the CPHL’s brass has decided to tier the levels; varsity will have a Tier I and Tier II, along with a JV division.
CPHL president Jeremy Sims is anticipating 12-13 Tier I teams, 6-8 Tier II squads, and 5-6 JV clubs.
“For high school players, the CPHL offers a high level of hockey; they get to wear the school colors; they get to play with the kids they go to school with; and they get to play in front of their teachers, community and classmates,” Sims said.
“Most teams also have coaches who’ve been with the same program for over five years and we – as high school coaches – work well together. We want our players to have opportunities beyond high school hockey and we work together to help that process.”
The CPHL currently has 10 of the 16 teams that played in last year’s CHSAA state tournament. Returning for another season is the current state and national champions from Cherry Creek, while newcomers include CHSAA powerhouses Ralston Valley and Monarch. Original members Regis Jesuit and Resurrection Christian will return for 2015.
The fall CPHL season runs from the beginning of September through October. The state tournament is showcased over the first weekend of November, with the champion earning the bid to nationals.
Cherry Creek coach Jeff Mielnicki said last season was an amazing run for his squad, which included playing six overtimes in the state semifinals against Dakota Ridge and three in the championship game win over Monarch.
“The CPHL gives us the opportunity to evaluate our players in the fall season,” Mielnicki said. “This season, the league will be very competitive and it’ll allow every team the chance to see how we match up and what we need to do to improve for the CHSAA season.
“What I like best about the CPHL is that it allows players to build full-season relationships with teammates.”
Colorado Amateur Hockey Association vice president of high school hockey and CPHL vice president Ralph Bammert, also president of the High Plains Hockey League (HPHL), said the two leagues have an excellent working relationship.
“Our numbers in the HPHL have increased this year, and I attribute that to the growth and success of the CPHL,” said Bammert. “It allows players to begin playing for their high school team in the fall, and most players are now sticking with their team through the winter and into the HPHL season. The CPHL is a great recruiting tool for the HPHL, and vice versa.”
Sims believes the CPHL has the potential to expand even more in the coming years.
“Of course we want the league to grow and get better,” said Sims. “The CPHL is available to any and all high schools and districts in Colorado, and we’d like to see not just high school hockey grow, but hockey at all levels and in all areas.”
“I think the growth will continue,” Bammert added.
– Matt Mackinder