DENVER — Tim DeBord lit Valor Christian's offense afire, and the Eagles are now headed to their first state hockey championship game in program history.
DeBord, a senior, had a hat trick in the second period as the Eagles built a 3-0 lead on Monarch. They went on to defeat the Coyotes 4-0 in the state semifinals on Thursday at Pepsi Center.
"They really came out hard, and we weathered the storm," DeBord said. "We just came out in the second period knowing what we had to do. We just found a way."
After a scoreless first period, DeBord provided a spark with an unassisted tally just 55 seconds into the second period. He also scored at 11:39, and then again at 15:54 of the frame — prompting Eagles fans to shower the ice with their hats.
"Honestly, I don't even know how I scored," DeBord said of his first goal. "I just saw it go in the back of the net, and we lost our mind, and we just got a ton of momentum from there."
"Timmy DeBord was terrific in the second period," said Valor Christian coach George Gwozdecky. "Once we got that first one, it really gave us a boost. It got us some adrenaline surge on that bench, and you really saw us start to play a little bit faster, and with a little bit more urgency."
Gwozdecky pointed to DeBord's third goal as a key, as well. That came with 1:06 left in the period.
"I think that took a huge bit of momentum out of them and gave us a little bit of a jump," Gwozdecky said.
Colton Carlson added an empty-netter for the Eagles with 1:37 to play to ice things.
The win avenged Valor's a 6-3 loss to Monarch to end the regular season on Feb. 10. The Eagles are now 20-2-0 this season.
"We were really unhappy not only about losing to them, but how we lost to them," Gwozdecky said. "We felt we made the gave very easy for them, and they're a hard enough team to play against when you make the game difficult for them."
Valor will have a chance to avenge its only other loss next Tuesday in the championship game against Regis Jesuit. The Raiders, who beat Chaparral in Thursday's other semifinal, beat Valor Christian 2-1 on Dec. 16.
It will be the first time Valor Christian has reached hockey's championship game, and signals the program's next step under Gwozdecky, now in his third season as coach.
"It's amazing," DeBord. "We're so blessed that it's us, and we get a chance to bring our first championship to Valor."
"It's uncharted territory," Gwozdecky said. "I'm really proud of our kids, excited for them, excited for the students. ... This is big. This is big for the school, this is big for the program, this is big for this group of kids in that locker room, and I'm excited and proud of them."
Gwozdecky, the former DU coach who led the Pioneers to two national championships, took over a team that was 3-15-0 the season before his arrival.
Under Gwozdecky, the Eagles have gone 46-15-2 since 2015-16.
DeBord entered the game with 25 goals. He's now tied for the team lead with Luke Wheeler at 28.
Valor Christian goalie Trey Hirschfield had an outstanding game, including an important save on a one-timer that came across his crease in the first period that kept the game scoreless. It was his fourth shutout of the season.
Monarch, the defending champion, ends the season at 19-3-0. The loss snapped an incredible streak of five consecutive appearances in the state championship game.