DENVER — Dillon Whalen stuck his pad out and got a piece of the puck. The Regis Jesuit goalie got a piece of the rebound, too.
Crisis averted. Game-changing moment held at bay.
The save, which came during a crucial 5-on-3 penalty kill, helped preserve Regis Jesuit's two-goal lead with 10 minutes remaining in the third period. The Raiders would go on to beat Resurrection Christian 4-0 in hockey's semifinals to return to the state title game as they seek to defend their championship.
"I was so scared," said Whalen, who finished with 31 saves in the shutout. "He looked like he was about to elevate the puck, but I just went into the splits and got it with the edge of my pads. It just went wide — luckily for me. That's one of the those bounces we got.
"We were up 2-0 at that point, it could've been a 2-1 game," Whalen added. "Who knows what would have happened from there."
Said Regis coach Dan Woodley: "That was a big turning point. It would've been 2-1 at that point, and probably would've been a real hectic game from thereon out."
The Raiders grabbed an early lead when captain Kyle Nelson scored on the power play five minutes in. It stayed that way until Michael Baer added a second power-play tally late in the second.
"We work really hard on our spacing and making our power plays effective, so it was nice to see a couple go in," Woodley said. "That really did turn the tide of the game."
Rowan Barnes sealed things for the Raiders with two third-period goals, including a nice move on a breakaway and an empty-netter.
Resurrection Christian goalie Berg Lebahn kept his team in the game, making 27 saves. The Cougars, seeded No. 4, finish a great season at 16-4 overall.
Regis Jesuit, the top seed, has been ranked No. 1 most of the year, and topped the final RPI standings of the season. Suffice to say, they've have a giant target on their back throughout the season.
"We've used it as motivation just to keep winning," Whalen said. "With a target on our back, it's just motivation to get that extra push, make a harder shot, make that extra save."
The Raiders will face the winner of the second semifinal between Monarch and Cherry Creek.
"We respect Monarch, we respect Cherry Creek," Nelson said. "No matter who it is in the championship game, it will be a battle."