MONUMENT – Lewis-Palmer’s run as hockey state champion is over.
The two-time defending state champs fell 3-2 in double overtime to third-seeded Resurrection Christian at the Colorado Sports Center on Saturday night. Michael Swift deposited a rebound from a Charles Trotter shot past Lewis-Palmer goalie Lucas Palonen just 17 seconds into the second overtime to end the second-seeded Rangers’ reign and send the Cougars to the state semifinals.
“My linemate Tyler (DuHadway) dumped it to (Charles) Trotter, he put it on net and I was able to get the rebound,” Swift said. “I feel that we were able to outplay them physically, and they kind of fumbled the puck and that’s when we were able to pounce on them. We’re looking to win the state championship.”
The game featured two of the state’s hottest teams – Lewis-Palmer (14-7) had won eight of nine and Resurrection Christina (16-4) six of seven – and was a nail-biter from start to finish. Following a timeout with 2:26 left, the Rangers knotted the game at 2-2 with just 2:07 remaining in regulation when Andrew Clark found the net behind Resurrection Christian goalie Michael Kushnak.
In the end, something had to give, and it was Lewis-Palmer’s defense. Swift’s goal came on a 3-on-2 breakaway and followed a number of quality chances for the Rangers to win in the first overtime period, only to be stonewalled by Kushnak.
For a team decimated by the graduation of 14 seniors from last year’s championship squad, reaching the state quarterfinals was quite the accomplishment for the Rangers.
“There wasn’t anybody anywhere in any place who would have thought we’d accomplish what we did,” Lewis-Palmer coach Steve Fillo said. “We were ‘The Little Engine That Could,’ and we so overachieved that you couldn’t be any prouder. We did it all with heart, energy and hustle, and as a coach, I can’t ask for more than that.”
The Rangers struck first, taking a 1-0 lead with 7:23 remaining in the first period on a goal by Austin Williams. That lead held for nearly a whole period, until the Cougars’ Tyler DuHadway tied the score with 7:29 left in the second.
Levi Weber gave Resurrection Christian a 2-1 advantage with 2:45 remaining in the second, and that lead held until Clark’s late heroics for Lewis-Palmer.
Cougars coach Jake Pence was thrilled to see his Loveland-based team move on to the semifinals.
“It feels good,” Pence said. “This is so new to us, and we just love every minute of it. I kept telling the guys, ‘Hard work pays off,’ and they kept working hard and it paid off.”