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George Gwozdecky's History Of Winning Has Carried Over To Valor Christian

By Lary Bump, 03/24/22, 5:45PM MDT


The former NCAA champion led his current high school team to back-to-back state titles in 2020-21.

PLANO, Texas – George Gwozdecky has just about done it all.

Player on an NCAA champion hockey team? Check.

Assistant coach of an NCAA champion? Check.

Head coach of an NAIA champion at Wisconsin-River Falls? Check.

Head coach of two NCAA champions, and three-time national coach of the year? Check.

Acquire dual-citizenship as a long-time Colorado native? Check.

Assistant coach of an NHL team that went to the Stanley Cup Final? Check.

Coach of two straight Colorado state high school champions? Double check.

One achievement that hasn’t come Gwozdecky’s way is a Chipotle-USA Hockey National Championship.

Why, you might ask, with that resume would he even be coaching a high school team?

Photo Credit: Paige Stingley/

“It was early July in 2015, after my contract with the Lightning ran out,” Gwozdecky said Thursday after Valor Christian, from Highlands Ranch, Colo., played its first game of the Chipotle-USA Hockey High School Division I National Championship. “My wife said I was getting in her way. She said Valor was looking for a coach, and why didn’t I help them select one.

“I didn’t even know they had a hockey team. The school was better known for football.”

Valor almost didn’t have a hockey team.

High School Div I Home

“The program had been dropped by the school,” Gwozdecky said. “Some parents had kids returning, and they encouraged the school to give it one last chance.”

With the school year fast approaching, Gwozdecky said, “We got it down to the top six candidates, and I asked the athletic director, ‘Would you be interested in me?’”

The answer was, “Yes, please!”

The only person who has won an NCAA national championship as a player (left wing at Wisconsin), assistant coach (Michigan State) and head coach (Denver) greeted 14 players for fall practice. Included were a defenseman who couldn’t skate backward and a forward who didn’t know he could cut his sticks down to size.

“We got killed in our first game, 10-1 or 11-1, but we miraculously made it to state,” he said.

“My salary wasn’t the reason I took the job. I wanted to continue to coach and mentor some kids. We’ve lived in the same house since 1994 [when he was the Denver University coach], and my wife said if I was going to move to another job, she was going to do it from Denver.”

After years of coaching at the highest level, Gwozdecky had to get used to working with inexperienced players.

“I didn’t know what I didn’t know,” he said. “Our kids liked hockey but weren’t hockey players. They had very little background of competition. They expected one practice a week and one game.”

After five years on the job, Gwozdecky led Valor Christian to state championships in 2020 and 2021. Last season, the Eagles played in the National championships for the first time, winning two of four games.

Valor Christian’s current players are dedicated to hockey. Co-captains Ryan Kayser and Noah Fekete both said they’d like to move up to junior and collegiate hockey thanks to the influence of Gwozdecky.

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“I knew about him, that he was a great coach,” said Fakete. “I like his coaching style. He has a very technical structure, to stick to how we want to do it. And he coached at my dad’s college, Michigan State.”

Kayser already had a good impression of Gwozdecky before ever playing for him.

“I had a sister at Valor. She said he was a class act and a great guy. I knew about him coaching at DU and of course the Lightning.

“I know how good a person he is. He’s the kind of coach who if you make a good play he’ll point another play that might have been even better.”

That brings us to Thursday, where Valor held off the St. Anthony’s Friars from Huntington Station, New York. The Friars tied the score four separate times and sent the game to overtime, but Valor prevailed in a shootout for a 6–5 victory.

Fakete scored two power-play goals in the first period. Kayser scored in a wild third period, when six of 19 shots on goal went in the net, and just missed on a chance late in regulation.

In the shootout, Henry Barnes, Alec Alfieri and Kayser scored, and goalie Cooper Robinson stopped all three shots by St. Anthony’s to seal the win for Valor.

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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