Valor Christian takes down Fort Collins to win back-to-back titles – The Denver Post

LOVELAND — George Gwozdecky has built what he came to Valor Christian to do, create the top high school hockey program in the state.

In a rematch of last year’s 5A title game, in which Valor Christian won in a five-overtime thriller, the Eagles were once again crowned the state champions after a 4-3 win Thursday over the Fort Collins Lambkins at the Budweiser Events Center.

“A lot of these kids came to Valor for the education, for the faith-based environment, but also they want to play hockey,” Gwozdecky said. “… It’s not easy. I’m a tough guy to be coached by. … But I think that they believe that in the long run if they keep their nose to the grindstone and keep working hard and they focus and concentrate, which is tough for teenagers to do, good things will usually happen.”

This isn’t the first time Gwozdecky has won back-to-back championships. He did it as the head coach of the Denver Pioneers in 2004 and 2005. This has been a different experience for him but just as rewarding.

“I’m having a ball,” Gwozdecky said of his experience coaching at Valor. “I really am. To just be able to be around these guys, when you see the joy and happiness of succeeding at something like this, it makes it really worthwhile.”

It was a fast and physical game. Valor dominated time in the offensive zone for most of the game. However, Fort Collins’ goaltender Sam Simon stopped all 16 of Valor’s shots in the first frame.

Fort Collins got on the board first as Aiden Beck redirected Hayden Pawlikowski’s shot.

“We’ve kind of been in that situation all year, just give up the first goal,” Valor Christian junior defenseman Ryan Kayser said. “But we know that we’re a better team deep down. We know we have more depth than all of them, so we have that in mind.”

Valor evened things up on the power play when Kayser fired a laser beam over Simon’s left shoulder. Evan Pahos, who scored the game-winner in the semifinal and the game-winner in last year’s title game, gave Valor Christian the 2-1 lead.

Beck scored his second goal of the game for the Lambkins, walking in and sniping the puck off the crossbar and into the net to knot things up at two-apiece.

After Valor missed on a couple of power play opportunities, the Eagles eventually were able to capitalize. Kayser gave them a 3-2 lead with another great shot.

And back-and-forth things went again. Fort Collins’ captain Danny White found the five hole to knot things up at three with about six minutes left in regulation.

Pahos nearly had another game-winner. He fired a shot over Simon’s right shoulder, but it was waved off. The Eagles kept pushing and Jameson Charles was able to find the back of the net to be the hero for Valor on this night.

Simon gave a valiant effort for the Lambkins, finishing with 35 saves on 39 shots, two nights after stopping 48 shots in the semifinal.