There’s an odd mix of bitter determination and fresh-faced exuberance on the ice this week for Resurrection Christian High School’s hockey team.
On the one hand, the Cougars semifinal defeat last season is still fresh and retribution is on the mind as the state playoffs start Friday.
On the other hand, most of the players on this year’s team, which finished the season 14-3-2 and earned a No. 3 seed in the playoffs, weren’t on the roster last season. For those players, the anger from defeat isn’t motivation to win.
“I think the turnover was good in a sense because it brings fresh people in, but the guys that were left have been there and have that taste in their mouth,” RCS coach Jake Pence said. “We’re all extremely excited.”
The Cougars will begin their playoff run Friday in Littleton against Doherty, which went 13-6 this season and finished sixth in the Peak Conference. The Spartans have lost three of their last four entering the postseason.
In their second season of hockey, the RCS team is once again entering the playoffs as a No. 3 seed. Last year, RCS lost to Ralston Valley in the semis.
Of the 29 players on the roster, only eight were on the team last year. This year’s squad racked up 98 goals in 19 games, while allowing only 37.
Despite that scoring success, there is a twinge of doubt after RCS lost its last game of the regular season 2-1, despite outshooting Standley Lake 48-16.
“It starts with bringing the puck to the net and getting chances on goal. You can’t win a game if you don’t score goals. That happened to us against Standley Lake,” Pence said. “When you play against the teams that are the top in the state, you’re not going to get a whole lot of chances to bury pucks. When you have them there, you need to whack away until you get the thing in the net.”
The Cougars are led offensively by Garrett Wood, Tanner Ulland and Tyler Weber. Wood has 15 goals and 21 assists, Ulland 18 goals and 17 assists and Weber 12 goals and 17 assists.
On the other end of the ice, the Cougars look solid. Brandan Alcorn is likely to get the start in goal. He has a 2.03 goals-against average and a .928 save percentage this season.
A majority of Doherty’s scoring comes from forward Dusty Kachel, who has 44 points on the season. The team’s second-leading scorer has 27.
If RCS wins Friday’s game (4:15 p.m.) at South Suburban Ice Arena in Littleton, the Cougars play in the second round on Saturday at 8:30 p.m. at the same arena against the winner of the game between No. 2-seed Mountain Vista and No. 7 Aspen.
Follow sports reporter Kevin Lytle on Twitter @Kevin_Lytle and at facebook.com/ KevinSLytle.