What Chaparral coach Ryan Finnefrock calls a “pretty good little rivalry” is approaching a boiling intensity as the Wolverines prepare for a Class 5A, South Conference showdown against Valor Christian on Friday.
Like it did last season, the game is likely to decide a conference champion. Valor Christian, ranked No. 3 in the Class 5A Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA) poll from Feb. 15, got the best of Chaparral a year ago, winning in the penultimate regular-season game to secure a conference title before going on to win the 2020 state championship.
Chaparral (6-0) returns most of the team that rebounded from the disappointment of the loss to Valor Christian to reach the Frozen Four. Finnefrock said seniors Landen Shay (7 goals, 9 assists) and Jackson Mundell (7 goals, 4 assists) have taken leadership of the No. 5-5A Wolverines.
Shay, Mundell, Colin McCready (7 goals, 8 assists) and Dillon Leonard (4 goals, 10 assists) are among the state’s scoring leaders, as the Wolverines have outscored their opponents 41-8 this winter. But it is the team’s newest addition to the regular lineup, junior goaltender Ryan Burke, who might be in the spotlight against Valor Christian.
Burke, who played some as a sophomore, has been strong in goal with a .915 save percentage and a 1.50 goals-against average. Finnefrock said it’s Burke’s goal to become the state’s best goaltender.
“He’s poised in the net,” Finnefrock said. “He’s cool, calm and collected unlike any goalie I’ve seen. And he’s out to prove he’s the best in the state. It’s fun to watch how hard he works.”
The Eagles, whose only loss this season was a 3-0 blemish to No. 1-5 Regis Jesuit on Feb. 5, also return many players from last year’s team. Caleb Pallo (5 goals, 6 assists), Ryder Price (4 goals, 4 assists) and Evan Pahos (4 goals, 3 assists) spark the offense, but defense reigns at Valor Christian and the goaltending duo of Cooper Robinson (3-0, 1.00 GAA) and Jace Ruth (1-1, 1.00 GAA) has been stout.
Valor Christian (4-1) has allowed just six total goals and the contrast in styles between the Eagles and Wolverines is evident in the scorebook. Finnefrock said his team will have to control the pace of play and stay out of the penalty box to prevent the Eagles from putting their effective power play to use.
“If we can play five-on-five hockey, I like our chances,” Finnefrock said.