The Resurrection Christian hockey team is set to begin its second season today, but there is little about the program that suggests it is a new work in progress.
Last year, in their first year, the Cougars went 16-5, making it to the state seminfinals before falling to Ralston Valley.
RCS doesn’t expect anything different. If anything, expectations are even higher for the team.
“We try to set that bar pretty high, it’s going to be tough to reach that,” said coach Jake Pence, who is currently working toward his masters at the University of Northern Colorado. “I think that’s good. We like to have it where we can obtain our goals, but they have to be really tough to get to.”
The team opens its second season tonight at Monarch. After going through preseason practices, Pence said the players and coaches are ready to hit the ice for games that count.
The team lost 11 players to graduation last year and there were few juniors on the team, Pence said, but there has been an influx of new players and his team now has 14 seniors.
The team is made up of players from different schools throughout Northern Colorado, including Fort Collins and Windsor schools. Players can join a team from another school if their own high school does not provide a Colorado High School Activities Association program in that sport. RCS has the only CHSAA ice hockey team in the area.
“It is exciting to have a chance to go deep into state and hopefully try and win state,” said Conor Sanders, a senior at Rocky Mountain High School who is in his first year with the team. “I haven’t really been on a team with expectations like this before, so it’s fun.”
As the new players start to mesh with members of last year’s team, the message is clear that the Cougars expect to sustain the same success that they had last season.
Pence said he likes to play a fast-paced and physical style of game that allows his players a lot of freedom to succeed. It has worked thus far.
“Same expectations as last year, if not a little bit higher,” said Fossil Ridge senior Paul Sartuche, in his second year with the team. “We really want that state championship. That’s our ultimate goal and that’s what we’re aiming for.”
The fact the players come from different schools creates an interesting group. Players who attend traditional rival schools in Fort Collins come together to form their own team. Some joked that it’s ironic they attend football games as rivals, then hit the ice as teammates. That unique group is something that Pence cherishes.
“I think that’s one of the best dynamics we have on our team,” Pence said. “Just because kids are coming from rival schools and rival programs and you get here and you just shut that off. You’re not a part of the association you used to be, you’re a Cougar.”
Follow sports reporter Kevin Lytle on Twitter @Kevin_Lytle.