Goal in fifth OT lifts Valor Christian over Fort Collins for first state hockey title

More photos. (CHSAANow.com)

DENVER — The best things in life never come easy. That was a lesson the Valor Christian hockey learned Tuesday night at Pepsi Center.

The Eagles put 84 shots on goal against Fort Collins goalie Sam Simon. None of them went in.

But the 85th did — in the fifth overtime. Valor Christian's Evan Pahos scored the winner with two minutes to play.

The result was elation. Elation from the Valor Christian players and elation from their fans that never wavered and never once thought of abandoning what may have been the greatest Colorado high school state championship game of all time.

With a 1-0 win, the Eagles are state hockey champions for the first time.

"I've been wanting this moment ever since I came here my sophomore year and started playing hockey here," Valor goalie Trey Hirschfield said. "We got close one time. Before the season started, I knew we had to win or I would be crushed."

But there were times where it seemed like no matter what happened, that puck was never going to get by Simon. After putting 14 shots on the net in the first period alone, the Eagles started the second period with another salvo at the Lambkins' net. 

Simon blocked one shot before an attempt off the rebound sailed over his left shoulder, but wide of the net. With nothing falling, the last thing coach George Gwozdecky wanted to see from his team was frustration and doubt start creeping into their heads.

"You just keep talking to them," Gwozdecky said. "You educate on how tournament games are going to go and you have to prepare yourself for overtime."

But maybe not five. The game was the longest state championship hockey game in state history.

Valor Christian Fort Collins hockey

More photos. (Paul Shepardson/PaulShedardsonPhotography.com)

Gwozdecky noted that the all the snacks and items that the Eagles brought to keep their energy up ran out after the first overtime. But they kept skating hard and firing shots on the net. Simon just kept turning them away.

"Sam Simon did a great job," Gwozdecky said. "There are so many superlatives that you can use to describe his performance, but he was outstanding."

As was Hirschfield. Regulation ended with neither goalie giving anything away. Then the first overtime. Then the second. 

And so on.

But in the fifth overtime, as jokes were made from the stands about students having to get to school, Simon finally got beat.

Pahos scored the game-winning goal with 2:12 to play in the fifth OT for the Eagles:

"I saw the shots going into that fifth overtime and he had 76 saves," Pahos said. "I've never seen that in my life and he had the game of a lifetime. It was getting annoying. We had to keep going and try to wear him out. Finally one by him."

The championship-winning goal caps a remarkable week for Pahos, who also scored the game-winner against Regis Jesuit to put the Eagles in the state title game.

Valor Christian Fort Collins hockey

More photos. (Paul Shepardson/PaulShedardsonPhotography.com)

It was a complete team effort for all 88-plus minutes of hockey that was played on the sheet of ice normally home to the Colorado Avalanche. Example No. 1 is the way that Hirschfield kept his composure especially watching what Simon was doing from the other side. 

"It was mostly my team and the guys in front of me, my defense," Hirschfield said. "They were phenomenal tonight and put everything on the line. We had two guys block shots with their faces."

Go big or go home. And that's exactly what both teams did on Tuesday.

It may not feel like for the Lambkins, but there were no losers at Pepsi Center. Valor Christian may have won the game, but the chatter for years to come will certainly surround a monumental effort from Fort Collins and its netminder.

It is believed that the 84 saves from Simon tied a national record for saves in a game.