DENVER — For the third time in the high school hockey season, Valor Christian and Regis Jesuit shared the ice.
For two of Colorado's premiere programs, the third game meant so much more than the previous two. First, the winner was going to advance to Tuesday's state championship game at Pepsi Center. But more importantly, each team was playing with a heavy heart after the sudden and unexpected passing of Cale Woodley, the son of Regis Jesuit coach, and a Raiders alumni.
Top-seeded Valor Christian won the game 2-1, but the respectful rivalry between the two teams were on display as hugs were shared after the final horn sounded.
"To be able to get involved in a game like this, just for a little bit, just to take your mind off what else is happening in life can be very important," Valor coach George Gwozdecky said. "What he's done at Regis and what he's done for the state of high school hockey in Colorado is phenomenal."
Gwozdecky was also quick to note that during the game, Woodley coached like Woodley. The Eagles got on the board in the first with a Ryan Kayser power play goal. They took the lead into the first intermission but it wouldn't last through the second period.
An Evan Pahos cross-checking penalty in the second gave the Raiders their first power play opportunity of the game and they made sure to cash in. Just over midway through the advantage, William Laws got Regis Jesuit on the board with a laser from near the blue line.
With the game now tied, the Raiders had renewed energy and swarmed the Valor net much better than they had earlier in the game. Unfortunately, they couldn't get the puck behind Valor goalie Trey Hirschfield for a second time.
The tie-breaking goal for the Eagles came from a hard bounce off the boards and off the skate of Regis Jesuit goalie Gage Bussey. It was off the stick of Pahos and when he initially fired it, he had no idea it would how fortunate a bounce he would get.
"I didn't think that shot was going in," Pahos said. "No one did. I just fired it off the boards and it went off his skate."
While a stunner to the players on the ice, Gwozdecky's experience coaching at both the collegiate and professional levels have made him aware of the bump the puck can take off the boards.
"I don't want to say we were working on that play today," Gwozdecky said. "But we were working in pre-game skate to get our defensemen to utilize bounces off the end wall."
Pahos' goal probably wasn't exactly what Gwozdecky meant when he said utilize the bounce but nevertheless, the liveliness of that ricochet has the Eagles in the state championship game for the second time in program history.