State hockey preview: Regis Jesuit and Valor Christian set to tangle for the title

Hockey Frozen Four Pepsi Center

(Ryan Casey/CHSAANow.com)

If Valor Christian is set to enter uncharted territory, then Regis Jesuit is a team that not only possesses the map — they were practically the ones to draw it.

The two teams are set to meet for the state hockey championship on Tuesday night at Pepsi Center. It is Valor Christian's first-ever title-game appearance, but the third consecutive for the Raiders, and seventh overall. All have come since 2008, and Regis Jesuit has won four championships.

Valor Christian Monarch hockey Tim DeBord

(Renee Bourcier/BourcierPhotography.com)

"Uncharted territory," Valor Christian coach George Gwozdecky said of reaching the final. His Eagles beat Monarch 4-0 in the semifinals last Thursday. "It's exciting for these kids. Most of them had never been into a championship match kind of like this. I'm sure they've been in tournaments before throughout their youth hockey, but this is big. This is big for the school, this is big for the program."

The Eagles, seeded No. 3, are now 20-2-0 this season. Their lone losses this season came to Monarch — the defending champions — and Regis Jesuit.

"I was teasing with (Regis Jesuit coach) Dan Woodley the other day that everybody was playing for the silver medal here," Gwozdecky said. "I think Regis has the gold, and everybody else is just playing for the silver. He was rolling his eyes."

The Raiders, unbeaten this season at 22-0-0, certainly have the experience having been in this game before.

"It gets easier every game," said Regis Jesuit senior Connor Kilkenny. "Every time I step up in these semifinal games and state title games, it gets easier. Obviously this last one will be my biggest one as a senior."

That not to say it's not special for the top-seeded Raiders, who topped Chaparral in the semifinals.

(Cindy Betancourt/eStudioWest.com)

"There are so many moving pieces for these state championships that it very rarely doesn't feel humble for me," Woodley said.

The two teams are fairly familiar with one another. It will be their second meeting of this season — Regis won 2-1 back on Dec. 16 with a third-period goal from Anders Erickson — but they have played four times dating back to the fall club high school season.

In fact, they met for the fall league title, a 6-5 Valor win in November in which the Eagles rallied from down a goal late in the third period.

The fifth meeting, for the gold trophy, is expected to be yet another battle.

"It's amazing to be playing for a title," said Valor Christian senior Tim DeBord.

State hockey championship

  • Who: (1) Regis Jesuit vs. (3) Valor Christian
  • When: 7 p.m. Tuesday
  • Where: Pepsi Center
  • Tickets (Free parking)
  • Bracket
  • Watch live: NFHS Network