Only six minutes into the finals, Regis Jesuit had gotten blitzed for two goals. In a hole and without their regular coaches on the sidelines, the Raiders needed a special run.
Regis Jesuit (Colo.) found its groove, scoring four straight goals and holding on at the end for a 4-3 victory against Waterloo (Iowa) for the program’s first-ever national championship at the USA Hockey High School finals Sunday morning at the Salt Lake Sports Complex.
Junior forward and captain Ryan Wagner led the team with a hat trick, including the final goal that eventually proved to be the game-winner. But Wagner was quick to give his teammates credit for the comeback.
“We started out OK — we just gave them a head start,” he said. “We had a really good effort. It was my teammates who did most of the work — I just finished it off.”
The Raiders took out the Warriors with a fast, flying attack. Speed helped Regis Jesuit quickly turn the tables as Waterloo seemed to back down after its early aggression.
Penalties also played a big role: The Warriors had eight penalties, contributing to two of Regis Jesuit’s power-play goals. Although neither team scored in the third period, Waterloo struggled to attack the Raiders’ goal particularly because of its numerous short-handed stints.
For its part, Regis Jesuit remained vigilant on defense after a poor start. Sam Harden made 20 saves in the game, allowing Wagner and Brian Burlage to take the lead on a flurry of scores. Although they surrendered one goal in the second period, the Raiders held on in the end, even in the final minute when the Warriors yanked their goalie to put in another attacker.
Regis Jesuit also had to deal with a Colorado state code forbidding the team’s regular-season coaches from interacting with players on Sundays. Club coaches Jason Monk and Terry Ott were on hand to guide the Raiders.
Meanwhile, coach Dan Woodley, dressed in street clothes instead of his customary red jacket and tie, was confined to a corner of the general seating, watching and shouting at his team from afar.
The win was bittersweet because Woodley couldn’t join Regis Jesuit on the ice to celebrate, but he was all smiles anyway after the game.
“It’s so much harder to not be able to do anything at all, and time does not fly,” Woodley said. “But these guys are winners. We just gave them a message, and they were able to handle it. I feel very proud.”
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Storylines Regis Jesuit wins high school hockey nationals
R The Raiders come back from a 2-0 deficit with four straight goals.
• Ryan Wagner scores a hat trick to lead Regis Jesuit.
• The Raiders hold Waterloo to only one goal in the final 45 minutes.