SALT LAKE CITY -- Just on the naked-eye glance, Regis Jesuit of Colorado traveled to Utah as a leading favorite to win a USA Hockey high school national championship.
The eyes didn’t deceive, even after a blurry start Sunday that included giving up two goals in the first six minutes.
Over six games in five days, the private Denver-area school was one goal better at the end Sunday — ousting Waterloo (Iowa), 4-3 on the University of Utah campus.
Waterloo took an early 2-0 lead, but coach Doug Dietz knew that was going to be a tough hold for the final 2 1/2 periods. He was right.
Ryan Wagner was Regis Jesuit’s best scorer, and the second highest of the tournament, with 13 points. He had eight goals and five assists in six games.
Oh, and he had three goals in the championship game, including the game-winner with about two minutes left in the second period.
“It was my teammates who did most of the work,” Wagner said. “I just finished it off.”
Waterloo scored with 43 seconds left in the second period to return its deficit to one goal, but neither team could get a puck in the net again. Defense tightened up, and some good chances were whiffed, too.
Waterloo opened up its offense, starting with a power play goal with nine minutes remaining in the first. Two of its scores came with one-man advantages, as Regis started sloppy.
Three consecutive goals by Regis, in a four-minute span, created a 4-2 advantage that would be impossible to retaliate.
The Iowa squad was excited to hang around Utah, which several players had never seen before this trip. They commended the proximity to the mountains along with the unseasonably warm weather. They were excited to stick around one more day for the sake of playing, and effort was never the issue.
It was just the classic case of running into another very good team.
“This was a heck of a journey for these guys and I am very proud of them,” Waterloo’s Dietz said to reporters. “They really exceeded mine and the rest of the coaches’ expectations.”
Regis entered the final day having scored 26 goals in the tournament to the Warriors’ 30, but the Waterloo squad surrendered 12 goals and Regis has only allowed five pucks to light the lamp heading into the final. Reaching that point included three pool-play games and three win-or-go-home matches. Sam Harden made 20 saves for the win.
Dietz liked the matchup: both teams play straightforward hockey and capitalize on opportunities.
At least he could coach his team. That wasn’t the case for the Colorado representatives. Dan Woodley was there but had to obey a Colorado code restricting regular-season coaches from interacting with players on Sundays.
That provided some humor to Utah-based volunteers at the Salt Lake Sports Complex. Most teams at any level, even college, don’t practice on Sundays because of the state’s Mormon heritage that frowns upon activity on the Sabbath.
Woodley wasn’t even allowed on the ice for the awards presentation.
“Coaches told us what to do and what to expect,” Wagner said. “We were able to go out and accomplish it.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
Tag(s): High School Varsity