SUPERIOR — Midway through the second period, and with momentum shifting towards Monarch, it was the state's second-leading scorer who stepped up.
Regis Jesuit standout Cale Woodley had a tip-in on a centering pass from teammate Jack Kilkenny on the power play which put the Raiders up by two goals. It ultimately helped decide a high-paced contest between two of hockey's best teams in the Foothills Conference.
The goal was Woodley’s 17th of the season and lifted him into a tie with Air Academy’s Jonathan Valtin for second in the league. It put Regis up 2-0 in a game that it would go on to win 4-1. But ultimately it was the goaltending of Sam Gartner that kept the top-ranked Raiders undefeated on Saturday night.
“He certainly had his eye on the puck tonight,” said Regis coach Dan Woodley of Gartner’s game. “There were a few chances early on that maybe he didn’t play as cleanly as he usually does but still found a way to make the save. So I knew early on that he had some good mojo.”
Gartner’s 26 saves paced Regis Jesuit (13-0-0 overall, 10-0 in conference play) over Monarch (9-2-1, 7-2-0) on a Friday night where the conference-leading Raiders were never quite able to impose their will.
As the first period began, it was easy to see that Monarch head coach Jimmy Dexter had his third-ranked team prepared for the game, as time and again Regis’ skilled forwards were stymied by good gap control on defense paired with a relentless back check by the Coyote forwards.
Confidence built as the turnovers piled up, culminating in a near miss by Monarch forward Brendan Van Haute’s near miss on a scramble in front of the Raiders’ net.
But ultimately, it would be Regis which put the only goal on the board in the first.
With two Coyotes in the box late in the period, Jack Kilkenny buried a backside rebound while sneaking down from the point during a scramble in front of Monarch goaltender Hunter Ingino.
Spurred on by its early success, Monarch again came out firing in the second. But after Van Haute had another near miss — a solid shot from the side of the net after winning a race to a loose puck near the Regis hash marks — and a wrister off the goalpost by the Coyotes' leading scorer Blake Bride, Regis again notched the only goal of the period on Woodley’s power play tip-in in the second.
“They were the better team tonight but I’m still proud of my guys,” Dexter said. “Despite all their talent we were still just a couple of bounces away from winning that game.”
Just over a minute into the third, the Coyotes would finally break, through, as the refs ruled a Gartner save on an Andrew Pickner shot to be behind the goal line. Regis wasted no time answering however, with Kilkenny picking up his second assist and third point of the contest.
The third tally seemed to dishearten the home team, who struggled to find a rhythm throughout a third period that got chippy in a hurry and degenerated into a series of unsuccessful power plays for both teams. But it was the early power plays that the Raiders credit for their victory.
“It was really clicking tonight,” Kilkenny said of the power play. “Fortunately I didn’t really have to do much (on the first goal) and was just sneaking down and found the puck on my stick so I buried it.”
For Regis, it was the first time the team had scored fewer than five in a game in their past six contests, but at 10-0 and in the driver seat in the conference, confidence level is sure to be sky high.
Meanwhile, Monarch’s loss marks their second in four days, but Dexter remains upbeat.
“These guys really stepped it up tonight,” Dexter said. “They don’t always come to play against lesser teams but I was so proud to see them bring it tonight the way they did.”