Stunning the State

Ice Hockey team topples reigning national champions, Denver East High School, in the High Plains Hockey Leagues Championship.


media by Photo Courtesy Sam Ballantine

Varsity boys ice hockey team holds up the 2023 Wales Division Banner May 14. The team won against the reigning championships, the Denver East Angels, 9-2. “It felt amazing. It really showed that, with a full group of guys, with the right mindset, we can do anything,” right wing Easton Stockert ’25 said. “We took down the back-to-back champs, which was my personal first time ever beating Denver East.”

by Abigail Wood, Assistant Editor in Chief: Photo & Camera Editor

For the first time in school ice hockey history, the Jaguars took away a win against the Denver East Angels during the final championship games that took place May 11 to May 14. 

High Plains Hockey League (HPHL) is spring hockey where players play individually for Rock Canyon, separate from the Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA) season where they play as the Sabercats, a team combined with Douglas County High School and Castle View High School. 

“My mindset was to just win,” varsity forward Joey Wennogle ‘24 said. “Last year, against them, we lost in the semifinals and that has stuck with me since then. I wanted revenge.” 

Other teammates also believed it was a chance to not only redeem the team but also to have a chance to prove themselves after their loss. 

“Last year, we played them in the semifinals, in a close game that ended in a 6-4 loss. So, being able to come back and get some revenge was so amazing for the team and me,” varsity forward Branddon Lorenz ‘23 said.

Throughout the season, the team struggled with team attendance and had to overcome the challenge of not having the full team there during many of the games. Some players had tryouts for Triple-A teams and academic conflicts resulting in the miss of games. 

“We have a great group of guys,” Wennogle said. “But, during the season we couldn’t all attend every game, so there were games where we had eight guys. But, I would say we got better as the season went on.”

A full roster consists of 18 players, with six of the players on the ice at a time. With only a partial roster for the majority of their games, players had to rotate quicker off the bench and onto the ice, resulting in less rest time. 

The team may not have had a full roster, but that didn’t stop them from building chemistry with each other over the season into the playoffs. 

“I think the team was great already but players built chemistry and we all formed as a team at the perfect time to play the way we did during playoffs,” varsity right-wing Easton Stockert ‘25 said. 

“In the regular season, we lost to Denver East 5-0, but then in the Championship we beat them 9-2.” 

Going into the playoffs, the Jaguars had a win/loss record of 7-5. 

“It was hard still having a winning record while not having a whole ton of guys before playoffs. It was tiring, but we managed to have a winning record and still be a force to reckon with going into playoffs,” Wennogle said. 

During the four games that took place, the Jaguars played against the Front Range Rangers in game one May 11, winning 7-2 and advancing to the quarterfinals. 

I knew that any game could potentially be my last, and I would regret it if I didn’t give everything I had.

— varsity forward Branddon Lorenz ‘23

“Going into the playoffs, I made it my goal to work as hard as I could,” Lorenz said. “Being a senior, I knew that any game could potentially be my last, and I would regret it if I didn’t give everything I had.”

In game two, the Jaguars took a 3-1 win against the Arapahoe High School Warriors May 12. In the semifinals, they played against The North Alliance, which combined teams with Jefferson County schools and Adam 12 Five Star schools. The Jags won the game 9-7 and advanced to the finals. 

“They are just a team and the same as everyone else. We played to win, not to win against a specific team,” varsity defender Zac Northrup ‘23 said. 

The final game took place May 14, ending in the Jags taking away the title of High Plains Hockey League 2023 Wales Champions from the reigning champions, Denver East. 

“It was the first time our school had [won an HPHL championship] in nearly a decade, so being able to do that gave us a lot of pride,” Lorenz said.