Power play goals help No. 10 Dakota Ridge hockey beat No. 8 Ralston Valley

ARVADA — A victory on the road against Jeffco rival Ralston Valley is just what Dakota Ridge had in mind when it traveled to Apex Ice Arena on Tuesday night.

Dakota Ridge forward Collin Fitzgerald, front, celebrates his power-play goal in the second period Tuesday night against Ralston Valley. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

The Eagles suffered blowout losses to No. 4 Fort Collins and No. 5 Chaparral by a combined score of 16-1 last week. Dakota Ridge, No. 10 in this week’s CHSAANow.com hockey rankings, got a pair of huge power-play goals less than 90 seconds apart in the second period on the way to a 4-2 victory over No. 8 Ralston Valley.

“This is a very important win to us as a team,” Dakota Ridge senior captain Jake Eickelman said. “We were coming off a couple of little questionable games and on a bit of a lull. I thought it was really good that we came together.”

Ralston Valley (5-6, 2-3 in Pinnacle League) took a 1-0 lead on a power-play goal by forward Zack Savarise early in the first period. Dakota Ridge (8-4-1, 3-2-1) answered late in the period with a goal by senior Parker Spaan to tie things up at 1-1.

The tide really turned when Ralston Valley forward Sam Clark was tagged with a 5-minute major for contact to the head. Dakota Ridge took full advantage of being up a man for five straight minutes.

“When we got that (power-play) we knew if we were going to get on top this going to be the time,” Eickelman said of the 5-minute major. “It was very important to get those two goals.”

Dakota Ridge goalie Riley Allen, right, cradles puck after a save on a shot by Ralston Valley forward Matt Ferguson. Allen made 24 saves in the Eagles' 4-2 win. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

Eickleman’s shot from the point found the back of the net in the opening seconds of the power-play. Junior Collin Fitzgerald gave the Eagles’ a 3-1 advantage less than two minutes later stuffing in a backdoor goal.

Ralston Valley closed the lead to 3-2 with just under 10 minutes to play in the third period with a goal by forward Dylan McGee, but an empty net goal by Drew Eickelman — Jake’s twin brother — in the final 30 seconds sealed the win.

“It was a great momentum swing here for the season,” Dakota Ridge senior goalie Riley Allen said after the win. “You have your ups and downs during the season. We were definitely on a low swing. It was really good to get back into it with a win, especially in a conference game.”

While both Dakota Ridge and Ralston Valley came into Tuesday night’s game in the top-10 in the CHSAA hockey rankings, both were dealing with losing streaks.

Dakota Ridge senior Graham Mansfield, left, prepares to get a shot off in front of Ralston Valley defenseman Garret Jackson. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

The Mustangs had good wins over No. 7 Monarch and No. 6 Mountain Vista since after winter break, but dropped to No. 1 Regis by a score of 5-2 last Friday night.

Mustangs’ starting goal Dylan Swanson and Allen were both solid in net.

“We both really battled and showed a lot of heart,” Allen said of himself and Swanson each having 24 saves on the night. “I know He (Swanson) is a really good goalie. I train with him during the off-season actually. It all comes down to how your team works in front of you too.”

Dakota Ridge and Ralston Valley will meet again in just 10 days. The Eagles host the Mustangs on Friday, Feb. 1, at Edge Ice Arena in Littleton.

“I feel like it really helps us to take the first game just to let them know that they will be on their heels when they come to our place,” Allen said of the rematch coming up in less than two weeks. “We haven’t lost at home all season. It should be a good tilt when then come over to our barn.”