Sam Zis' OT goal secured Monarch a 7-6 victory over Pacific Conference rival Denver East in a CPHL game Friday night at Big Bear Ice Arena. Photo by Steven Robinson
Monarch entered Friday’s game against unbeaten Denver East eager to dethrone the Colorado Prep Hockey League’s Pacific Conference frontrunner.
The Coyotes rolled to a three-goal lead through the first 14 minutes of the opening period — seemingly putting the Angels away early.
Their early lead proved to be fool’s gold.
Denver East scored twice to close the period and put Monarch in a tug of war in which neither team would wrestle away control through three periods.
Sam Zis finally helped the Coyotes pull out a win, scoring on a breakaway midway through the overtime period to secure a 7-6 victory at Big Bear Ice Arena. Despite the resilience shown in the back-and-forth affair, neither coach came away thrilled with their teams' performances in a game both hoped would be a measuring stick not only against a Pacific Conference rival, but for the rest of the field this CPHL season.
Monarch opened the season by winning the Early Bird Tournament title, a feat that required hard work and willpower, coach Jimmy Dexter said. He didn’t see the same effort from the Coyotes on Friday as Monarch gave up more than three goals in a game for the first time this season.
“We made bad decisions with the puck — we turned it over constantly — our effort was poor. It was a rough game for us,” Dexter said. “It was nice to get a W, but I don't think we could have played worse.”
Zis was vital in the win, playing a hand in the final three goals. He led Monarch (7-2-1, 3-1-0) in the game with two goals and two assists while linemate Drew Fehr had two goals and an assist.
Dexter was particularly impressed by his team’s third line of Cam Piggot, Vincent Felt and Nick Kreiter. The trio embodied the effort Dexter saw in this team while it was dominating in late August — they played hard every shift and did the things that don’t show up in the scoresheet but are key in helping a team win, whether it be racing to loose pucks or digging out possession in the corners.
“If this were a playoff game, I would have rolled those three (every other shift),” Dexter said. “They brought the intensity. It was awesome.”
Felt displayed that workman-like attitude early in the matchup against the Angels and did get in the scorebook when he tallied the game’s opening goal a minute into the first period. Denver East coach John Kopperud said he didn’t know how it found the back of the net, but it was the type of play that ultimately defined how the rest of the game unfolded.
“It was really ugly and that set the tone (for the game),” he said.
Zis made his mark early, as well. He set up Fehr for a goal at the 10-minute mark of the first period — a play that prompted Kopperud to make a goalie switch, sending Noel Friedman in for starter Ethan James and hoping the freshman would anchor the Angels’ backend.
Jack Davila scored on Friedman three minutes later, but the goalie recovered to keep Denver East from falling too far behind and making the game competitive.
“(Friedman) did an admirable job in that situation in a game where neither team was playing defense,” Kopperud said.
Denver East graduated the state’s top duo from the 2019-20 Colorado High School Activities Association season, leaving Kopperud to assert that his team’s strong suit this year would be its defense. He didn’t mince words following Friday’s game in which the Angels allowed a season-high six goals. Denver East entered the game allowing just 1.5 goals this season.
“I thought (defense) was going to be our strength but in actuality, it’s our glaring weakness,” he said.
Sophomore defenseman Joseph Capra jumpstarted Denver East’s offense, scoring on a power play with less than three minutes remaining in the first period. Photo by Steven Robinson, SportsEngine
Kopperud, however, credited Angels defenseman Joseph Capra for jumpstarting Denver East’s offense. The sophomore, who is already impressing Division I scouts, scored on a power play with less than three minutes remaining in the first period.
Capra teammate Calvin Polon found the net less than a minute later to help Denver East yank away momentum from its foe just before the first intermission. The teams tussled the remainder of the game, with each always seemingly answering the other’s scores with goals and with neither team taking more than a two-goal lead.
Zis scored his first goal with less than five minutes to go in the third period, giving the Coyotes a 6-5 lead. It didn’t last long. Ninety seconds later, Denver East’s Kaden Dunham scored the final goal in regulation to send the game to overtime, where Zis ended with his game-winner.
With the victory, the Coyotes (5-1, 3-1) stayed within striking distance of the Angels in the Pacific Conference standings. Monarch has four points while Denver East leads the league with seven.
The Angels look to build upon this performance while keeping paying attention to the team in their rearview mirror.
“That’s one of the best teams in the state and to go to overtime and be one goal away from taking it, there’s no reason we can’t be the last team standing at the end of the season,” Kopperud said.
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