DENVER — For the third season in a row, Regis Jesuit will be playing for a state hockey championship.
The top-seeded Raiders got off to a sluggish start, but came out firing in the second period to get a 7-1 win over Chaparral on Thursday at Pepsi Center in the state semifinals.
The Raiders last won the state title in 2016 by beating Monarch, but the Coyotes walked away the victors a year ago. Now, Regis has a chance to go for its second title in three years.
"It makes us want to go even harder," Raiders senior Connor Kilkenny said. "I know the feeling of winning and I know the feeling of losing. I think it just drives us to have that (2017 ) loss in the back of our mind."
Kilkenny put the Raiders on the board just under seven minutes into the game, scoring on a power play opportunity.
Chaparral, an underdog throughout the tournament as a No. 13 seed, briefly pulled even thanks to Dorian Perret scoring on the Wolverines' first power play of the game.
"We hung," Chaparral coach Ryan Finnefrock said. "But we didn't play our best and that's what it takes to beat a good team like Regis."
The Raiders regained the lead just 20 seconds later thanks to an unassisted goal by Kale Lone. The Raiders came out of the first period with the lead, but the offense had stalled overall.
That wasn't the case at the start of second period. Kilkenny added his second goal of the game just 16 seconds into the period and the Raiders fed off that momentum. Justin Lico, Nicholas Schultz and Shane Ott all found the back of the net for Regis and by the end of the second, the Raiders had their sights set on Tuesday's championship game.
"The second period, that first shift getting the first goal and going up with two more really quick ones afterward, I think it shut them down mentally," Kilkenny said.
Once Regis had taken a five-goal lead, the experience factor took effect and coach Dan Woodley went into management mode.
His goal for the third period was to keep his players loose and time constantly moving.
"We were just trying to keep the clock running," Woodley said. "That was our goal to keep it going, respect our opponent and respect the process."
The Raiders put the game in cruise control in the final period, but overall for the game, they outshot the Wolverines 30-12.
In terms of a program's first season, Chaparral's was remarkable for several reasons. Despite a few hiccups in the regular season, the Wolverines hit their stride in the tournament.
As the No. 13 seed in the bracket, they took down No. 4 Fort Collins and No. 5 Steamboat Springs to reach the Frozen 4.
"We always had the potential, we just didn't put 51 minutes of good hockey together," Finnefrock said. "It took us until playoffs to put 51 good minutes of hockey together and staying in it forever. We saw what can happen."
In its search for the program's fifth state title, Regis will meet the winner of Thursday's late game between Valor Christian and Monarch.