DENVER — Monarch jumped all over Cherry Creek in the first period, then weathered a flurry of activity from the Bruins to secure a spot in hockey's state championship game.
Ultimately, the second-ranked Coyotes beat No. 3 Cherry Creek 4-1 on Friday night to return to the title game. It will be Monarch's fifth-straight appearance — a feat only done once before in the history of the sport, when Cheyenne Mountain did it from 1982-86.
Of course, Monarch has never won a championship, going 0-4 in those previous title appearances. It's a fact the Coyotes are all too aware of.
"Oh, we've been there before?" Monarch coach Jimmy Dexter joked after the semifinal win.
Said forward Franny Churches: "We've just got to finish the job this year."
Friday night, it was the first period, when Monarch went up 3-0 on Cherry Creek, that set the tone in the semifinal matchup. Churches got things started just 3:07 into the game, and Brodie Wiener added a pair later in the period.
"To go up 3-0, that's tough to recover," said Monarch coach Jimmy Dexter. "And they definitely gave it to us after the start of that second period. They scored one, we weathered the storm, and got through it."
"We had a good warmup," Wiener said. "We knew we could run those guys if we got off to a fast start, and that's what we did."
Cherry Creek's Danny Taggart cut it to 3-1 midway through the second period, and the Bruins continued to push, but Monarch goalie Logan Gorbitz turned them away. He finished with 15 saves.
"With Gorbitz in net, he gives us a chance to win every night," Dexter said.
Now Monarch will get a shot at Regis Jesuit in the final. The Raiders beat Resurrection Christian 4-0 in the early semifinal.
They're two familiar opponents, having met in last season's final, a 6-1 Regis win. They've met twice this season, a 4-2 Regis win on Jan. 7, and a 3-0 Monarch win on Feb. 17. That Feb. 17 game is the lone game Regis has lost this season.
"We know that we can beat them, but we know that we have to show up and play our best game," Wiener said.
Added Dexter: "They'd won 24 games in a row, so to knock them off, I think these guys will definitely be confident."
So, for the fifth consecutive season, Monarch will have a shot at a ring.
"To tell you the truth, I didn't think we'd be here this year with losing 17 seniors," Dexter said. "At the beginning of the year, mentally and physically, these guys really struggled. But they've come so far, it's unbelievable. So proud of these guys right now."
Added Churches: "We've got a really good program at Monarch, and to be able to make it back to the championship game year after year definitely says a lot about what we've done. But we've got to get the ring to prove that we belong."