Ralston Valley’s record this season resembles the one posted by last year’s team — a squad that finished high in the Colorado Prep Hockey League’s Tier 1 regular-season standings.
The Mustangs, however, are blazing a different path to success this year, and they are doing it with a herd mentality.
Ralston Valley graduated 14 seniors from a season ago, when the Mustangs rode a few players to a 9-3-1 league record (10-3-2 overall) and edged out Monarch and Fort Collins to take third place behind first-place Valor Christian and second-place Regis Jesuit.
This year, Ralston Valley has embraced a team- and system-first approach on offense. It’s resulted in eight players already amassing double-digit points, including four who have 10 or more assists on the season.
The Mustangs’ unselfish play was evident against Vail on Saturday night, when the top two teams in the CPHL’s Atlantic Conference collided at Apex Center in Arvada.
Six minutes later, the Homer brothers — senior Christopher and sophomore Joseph — scored just 12 seconds apart. Each assisted on the other’s goal, along with Borer, and from there, Devin Strong helped cap the period. He assisted on a goal at the 10:40 mark by Chase Coisman before scoring on an assist from Henasey with less than five seconds to play in the period.
Coisman added a second goal in the third period and assisted a Garin Smith goal to close the game and a three-point outing on Saturday. Strong assisted on both goals to finish the game with a team-best three assists and four points.
“As the game went on, our guys found ways to work it around,” Spellman said. “Once they figure out one way to beat a team, they just build off it.
“It’s not one line that’s producing,” he added. “We have four lines up front, and they all feed off each other.”
Coisman has been one of the biggest beneficiaries and benefactors. He leads the Mustangs with 15 goals and has 10 assists on the season. The junior forward enters the week second in points (25) and third in goals in Tier 1, trailing league leader Riley Hunt-Bahn (20-9-29) of Cherry Creek.
Coisman’s breakout season, his first in the CPHL at Tier 1, has been a testament to Ralston Valley’s commitment to spreading the puck around, a lesson learned following a 3-2 loss to Hyland Hills on Oct. 16.
In the three games since the loss, the Mustangs have outscored their competition 33-1, including a 7-0 victory over Mountain Vista on Oct. 22 and a 19-1 drubbing of Pine Creek on Oct. 17. Ralston Valley has scored seven or more goals in nine games this season.
“They realized they’re better when they play as a team versus individual efforts,” Spellman said. “A few guys were trying to do it themselves, and they saw the end result.”
The Huskies (4-7-0-0, 4-4-0-0, 4-3-0-0), in their inaugural Tier I season after going unbeaten in Tier II last year, opened the CPHL season by winning four of their first five games, but have now lost six straight.
“We’re just not able to keep that momentum going. When you’re back on your heels most of the period, you start to get tired and playing defense is pretty exhausting,” Huskies coach Derek Byron said of Vail’s second-period struggles. “We have to move to move the puck quicker and get into the offense zone faster.”
After handling a heavy dose of Atlantic Conference competition, Ralston Valley may find winning in the remaining weeks of the regular season requires more heavy lifting. The Mustangs have games against several Pacific Conference juggernauts, such as Cherry Creek, Valor Christian, Fort Collins and Monarch.
Getting out of the shoot and off to a fast start this season has been a pleasant surprise for Spellman, who said the Mustangs have not reached their ceiling. He added that his team is aware of the path ahead.
“It’s a young group, and we’re learning our way,” Spellman said of his team’s success this season. “We have some big tests ahead. We’re excited to play them.”
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