Hard Hits On and Off the Ice

Combined CVHS Sabercats Ice Hockey Co-op team struggles with chemistry and communication.

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

The smell of sweat wafts through the air from locker rooms, the cold air seeps into your lungs and the sound of hockey pucks flies across the ice. The Sabercats varsity hockey team consists of three high schools: Rock Canyon, Douglas County and sponsor team, Castle View. With 18 players and five reserves filling the varsity roster, the team’s packed to the max. 

“Preparing for the season starts at the beginning of the pre-season,” varsity captain and defenseman Zac Northrup ‘23 said. “With new players every year and many graduating, one of the main aspects we focus on is gaining team chemistry. We’re grateful to have an amazing coaching staff that keeps the environment positive and allows for our chemistry to grow.”

“Physically, practices and pre-season games are really what prepare us. Getting to be out there on the ice with your teammates is a key factor in preparation for the season,” Northrup said. 

The Sabercats started their ‘22-23 Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA) season in the middle of November with their first game Nov. 17. The weekend consisted of the Turkey Bowl Tournament over Thanksgiving break–the Sabercats won three of their games. The team was knocked out of the tournament in the elimination round, losing in overtime 4-3 against the Ralston Valley Mustangs. 

The next weekend, the Sabercats landed in Texas to participate in the “Best of the West High School Showdown” and came out on top, winning four out of their five games. 

The team played against the Chaparral Wolverines Dec. 10 for the first time in the ‘22-’23 CHSAA season after beating them 4-3 in the ‘21-’22 CHSAA season. The Sabercats ended up losing the game in overtime 4-3. 

“It was frustrating to lose in OT to Chaparral, but I feel as though we have come very far as a team this season so far,” varsity goalie Baden Johansen ‘23 said. “In my four years on this team, I’ve never seen us work together as a team so well. And we’re going to continue to improve that.”

In my four years on this team, I’ve never seen us work together as a team so well,

— varsity goalie Baden Johansen ‘23 said.

Entering December, the Sabercats had a total of seven games coming up and went into the new year with a win/loss record of 3-4. 

The team started the new year scrimmaging top ten ranked Cherry Creek Bruins, at South Suburban Sports Complex (SSSC) Jan. 4. The game ended in a loss for the Sabercats with the Bruins scoring an empty net goal in the last few seconds of the game. 

“The main goal for the scrimmage was finding out the best lines for power play and penalty kills, as well as getting back into the feeling of a game since our last game was a little bit ago,” varsity defenseman Sam Ballantine ‘24 said. “Scrimmages are practice games so it gives coaches a chance to mix up lines to see what works and what doesn’t, as well as trying out new systems we have been working on in practice, it also allows us players to get back in the swing of things if we haven’t been on the ice in a while.” 

After injuries impacted two players, the team has had to adjust lines. Both Castle Rock varsity forward Sol Levy ‘23 and Douglas County varsity defensemen Luke Dupuis ‘24 were knocked out of play with shoulder injuries. 

“These two guys are really impactful players. It always sucks to have them out and then you’re not dealing with the adversity of playing with different people all the time, but it’s been good,” senior varsity forward Ben Ballantine said. “It’s been like a good test for [the team].” 

Levy will be back to play for their Senior Night game against the Heritage High School Eagles Jan. 28. at South Suburban Sports Complex (SSSC). The puck drops at 8:05 p.m.

With lines being switched, players struggles with obstacles of miscommunication and learning how to work together on the ice. 

“Line chemistry is definitely a thing, but it’s not as prominent as actual team chemistry,” Northrup said. “You can still work together with your teammates, whether you’re on a different line, but it is kind of a coaching decision if they’re going to switch up lines or not.”

On Jan. 7, the Sabercats played the Chatfield High School Chargers, winning 4-2 after being tied 2-2 going into the third period. The team then headed to Fort Collins Jan. 10. to play against the Fort Collins Lambkins–winning 4-3. 

“I think one of the highlights would probably be beating Fort Collins at their [home] place,” varsity forward Cody Marchand ‘24 said. 

Marchand is currently the only freshman on the varsity team making him the youngest player. Marchand was originally on a club team and decided to switch over to high school due to the politics that are involved within the club sports. Marchand has played a total of 11 out of 12 games the team has played. 

“I wanted to have a fresh start with high school,” Marchand said. “Everyone was pretty cool, I mean like all the seniors were accepting of me and me being a part of the team. I really look up to Zac [Northrup], just the way he plays and how he interacts with the team.”

The team also has one of the league’s top scorers, senior varsity forward Ben Ballantine. He has racked up a total of 16 goals, six assists, and 22 points throughout 11 games. 

“It’s pretty surreal,” Ballantine said. “It’s definitely been a goal of mine, and it’s really cool to finally accomplish it. The work started pretty much in the summertime and working out consistently and being on the ice as much as possible to accomplish what I wanted.” 

The team has three different seasons, only one is associated with CHSAA. Colorado Prep Hockey League (CPHL) associates with the fall season and makes the second most competitive season that the Castle Rock Sabercats play in, but it’s not registered with CHSAA sports. The season starts Sept. 1 and ends early November..

According to the CPHL website, “[They] offer three levels of play for High School teams (Tier1, Tier2, & JV) in Colorado so that they can better prepare for the CHSAA winter season.” 

The regular season for CHSAA winter sports started Nov. 14 and continues until Feb. 18. 

The last season that the team played in was called the High Plains Hockey League (HPHL) where players play individually for Rock Canyon. The season’s first games begin March 17 and the Playoff championship games are completed around May 14. 

“It’s the least competitive–it’s more just a fun league to mess around and have fun with your friends. And then the seniors can still play that. It’s kind of their last chance to play high school hockey,” Northrup said. 

The team, however, struggles to finish out the game in the third period due to not mentally being in the game. Along with the tiredness, players get aggravated and the mood of the game diminishes. 

“During the game, stuff gets hard when you can’t get the puck out of the zone,” varsity forward Christian Jobson ‘25 said. “It’s really stressful mentally, so sometimes you just get to like having that self-talk. You know, you just need one chance.” 

The team will continue to play together until the end of February. The first round of playoffs starts in February and should be completed by Feb. 24. 

Senior night is today, Jan. 28, against the Heritage High School Falcons at 8:05 p.m. on rink two of South Suburban Sports Complex (SSSC). 

The parent-run Instagram, @sabercatshockeyteam, has been posting senior spotlight posts leading up to the game, in hopes of getting more attention for the team.  

Updates on the hockey program can be found on their Instagram at @castleviewhockey or their website. See below for their game schedule: