ARVADA -- Ralston Valley hockey started its 2013-14 campaign right were it left off last season.
The Mustangs won its season opener Monday night at the Apex Ice Arena with a dominating performance against Cheyenne Mountain. Ralston Valley skated to a 10-1 victory against the Indians to begin the defense of the state championship it claimed last year.
Ralston Valley outscored its four playoff opponents last year 20-2 on the road to winning the school’s first state hockey championship.
“That is definitely the goal,” Ralston Valley senior Greg Dyba said of attempting to repeat. “The speech earlier in the locker room was about when we have something we are going to defend it with all we have and get that back. We are going to grind and do whatever it takes.”
Ralston Valley’s top offensive line of Dyba, Victor Lombardi and Austin Resseguie put on an offensive show. The all-senior line produced five goals. Dyba had a hat-trick midway through the second quarter. Lombardi had a goal in each the first and third periods.
The Mustangs put nearly 60 shots on goal and held the Indians to just over 10 shots on goal.
“Those are three big contributors for us,” Ralston Valley coach Matt Schoepflin said of his top line. “They are leaders on and off the ice. I expect a lot out of them.”
Ralston Valley’s second offensive line of Cody Noel, Lincoln Smith and Colton Hellman wasn’t shabby in the opener. Noel scored a pair of goal grinding out in front the of net and Hellman added a goal in the third period.
Noel, a sophomore who transferred from D’Evelyn to Ralston Valley this school year, is playing his first season of high school hockey.
“I was really excited to play with some of my friends on the team,” Noel said. “I want to work hard and try to win another state title.”
Cheyenne Mountain has the most decorated hockey program in the state. The Indians have 14 state hockey titles. Cheyenne Mountain’s last state championship came in 2004.
Junior Ryan Case scored the Indians’ lone goal Monday night. Seniors Gret Liquori and Keaton Allison assisted on the power-play goal in the second period. Case’s goal cut Ralston Valley’s lead to 3-1, but the Mustangs quickly answered with back-to-back goals from Dyba before the end of the second period.
The Mustangs showed their depth in the third period getting five goals from five different players. Ralston Valley goalie Zack LaRocque picked up the win in net, while Cheyenne Mountain freshman Fyan McCann picked up the loss.
Ralston Valley came so close to winning its first state hockey championship a handful of times before finally hoisting the trophy last winter. Since the Arvada-area school started its hockey program seven years ago, the Mustangs have been in the mix for the state championship almost every single season.
“While winning a state title was great and great experience for our returning players, this is a brand new team,” said Schoepflin, who is in his third year as head coach for Ralston Valley. “It’s different than last year. We want to improve constantly. That is our big goal. We want to peak at the right time like we did last season.”
The Mustangs’ next home game at Apex will come at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 17. Ralston Valley will hang its state banner on that night when the Mustangs face their Jeffco rival Standley Lake. Schoepflin said he hopes to have a lot of graduated seniors back in town during winter break from last year’s state championship squad attend the game.