Photo by SportsEngine
A preseason gathering quickly turned into a unique opportunity for Cheyenne Mountain coach Erik Austin.
Austin was talking with some friends in the Colorado Springs’ hockey community, and they decided to join forces. Cheyenne Mountain — a staple of the Colorado Prep Hockey League (CPHL) as a regular competitor in Tier 2 — combined with Pueblo, Air Academy and Doherty, paving the way for its first Tier 1 team in several seasons.
The co-op features three teams — Tier 1, Tier 2 and JV — and has 63 players.
“It’s fun working with some other head coaches. All the head coaches of all the programs are bought in and working with the kids,” Austin said. “It’s a lot of fun to see the kids playing with the guys they used to play with in bantams and peewees kind of reconnecting three years later.”
Austin said the co-op helps the teams address a couple of challenges, primarily ice time. Colorado Springs is down available ice with Honnen Ice Arena — the previous home of Colorado College — permanently closed, the World Arena removing an ice sheet and Colorado College’s new arena not yet online.
“Instead of four programs competing for ice, we said, ‘Let’s come together, we can get more ice.’ It’s worked out really well,” Austin said. “We’re able to get on the ice three times a week.”
The co-op also helps the teams address the numbers gap between programs in Colorado Springs and programs in the Denver area. While the programs in and around Denver have been able to stock their Tier 1 teams full of upperclassmen and let their underclassmen grow and thrive in Tier 2, programs in Colorado Springs haven’t been afforded the same opportunity.
But that story has changed with the co-op. This year, the Rangers Tier 1 team is mostly seniors, allowing the underclassmen to round out their Tier 2 team.
“With our co-op in the Springs, we’re able to kind of match those Denver, large programs… it’s fun to watch those guys play within their age groups almost,” Austin said.
The product on the ice should be fun to watch as well. Cheyenne Mountain brings in two full lines, Pueblo touts a full line, while two forwards, two defensemen and a goaltender come in from Doherty and Air Academy. The names are notable, too.
Forward Chase Chapman, who Austin says is going to be “one of the best players in the state,” was the Gazette Preps 2021 Ice Hockey Peak Performer of the Year after a CHSAA campaign in which he was second in the state in goals (17) and third in points (26).
Additionally, forwards Nick Hallee and Noah Bonnett combined for 25 points for Cheyenne Mountain in the 2020-21 CPHL season. And goalie Ashton Goble is coming off last season’s CPHL campaign in which he held a 3-1-0 record for Tier 2 CMHS while holding a .917 save percentage and allowing only 1.44 goals per game.
Cheyenne Mountain begins its 2021 CPHL season on Saturday with a pair of games against Resurrection Christian. The Rangers are prepared to prove they can be competitive.
As Austin said, they have the pieces.
"It's just about getting the guys used to playing together."
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Cheyenne Mountain forward Chase Chapman is one player to watch in the 2021 CPHL season. Click here to view the list of other players to keep an eye on. A membership is required to access the article.
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