COLORADO SPRINGS — Down a goal early and with Alexander Brooks - the state's points leader - on the other bench, Doherty hockey coach Will English wasn't the slightest bit worried.
He had brought his team too far to let panic and concern creep into his head. He knew that his boys would bounce back simply by playing the way they had all year. Early in the second period, those boys rewarded his faith.
"Normally yes (I'd be worried about being down early)," English said. "Tonight, no. I wasn't concerned. Leading into the game my coaches were giving me a hard time. Once we got on the bench on got going it just went away."
A year ago, Doherty hockey didn't record a win all season. English had previously coached at Doherty and was successful, so he was brought back to change the culture and get the team back to winning.
And he has done just that.
It was a night of celebration for the Spartans (17-0-2 overall). After celebrating the final game for this season's seniors, they celebrated arguably one of the best turnarounds for any high school athletics team this season.
"It's completely different," Jordan Cornelison said. "It's a completely different culture and Coach has helped out with that a lot."
Mitchell Cole put the Eagles (15-2-1) up 1-0 near the end of the first period. Pine Creek took advantage of a Thomas Hollon tripping penalty and scored on the power play.
Cornelison scored the tying goal in the opening two minutes of the second period and Tanner Chapman scored on a Doherty power play shortly after to give the Spartans their first lead of the game.
"We stuck to our guns and played true to our identity," Cornelison said. "We just played hard. We weren't worried and we knew what we were capable of."
The intensity picked up just a couple minutes later. A lot of post-whistle activity led to some tempers flaring and players from both teams heading toward the penalty box. By the time things got sorted out, the Spartans were going to have a man advantage for three minutes. But they couldn't capitalize.
"Unfortunately in those situations it can make or break a team," English said. "We stayed strong with it and we got sucked in a little bit when we shouldn't have."
Cornelison padded the Doherty lead four minutes and 46 seconds into the third period. In the final 17 minutes, Pine Creek had two power play opportunities but the Spartans were able to limit opportunities and kill off both penalties.
"For us, we've been penalized frequently," English said. "That is a huge momentum boost for us because we can get through those adverse states and that's what we talk to with the guys. Don't let adversity be an issue. Let's handle those things and keep everything in our favor."
Nicolas Hernandez left no doubt for Doherty with about two minutes left in the game. His goal pushed the lead to 4-1 and secured an undefeated year for the Spartans. Now they'll see how the final games play out across the state before the state tournament bracket is announced on Sunday.