George Gwozdecky has been coaching hockey for over 40 years including the past six at Valor Christian.
He knows what it takes to win a game.
On March 18 at the Budweiser Events Center in Loveland, Gwozdecky knew the Eagles had to shoot the puck at the net and force Fort Collins goalie Sam Simon to make saves.
Valor did just that, holding a 49-19 advantage in shots on goal, and won its second straight Class 5A CHSAA state hockey championship with a 4-3 win over the previously undefeated Lambkins.
The Eagles got three of their four goals from defensemen with Ryan Kayser scoring twice and Jameson Charles getting the game-winner with 2:36 remaining in the contest.
Valor captured the state title last year with a five overtime, 1-0 win over Fort Collins that saw Simon tie a national record with 84 saves in the setback.
“We needed our defensemen to be aggressive,” said Gwozdecky. “One of the things we knew we needed to do is get pucks to the net because of Simon. We had to create second chance opportunities. Fortunately some good shots went by him.
“It was just one of those crazy nights. It was like the last shot wins. It certainly was an interesting game. I’m proud of these guys. Anytime you can win your last game of the season it’s a heck of an accomplishment. Considering they were defending the championship, that’s even tougher to do.”
Fort Collins took a 1-0 lead in the first minute of the second period but the two goals by Kayser and one by Evan Pahos helped create a 3-3 tie which Charles ended with his hard shot off an assist from Ryder Price at the 14:34 mark.
“We have kind of been in that position all year,” explained Kayser. “We give up the first goal but we know we are a better team deep down and we have more depth.
“Our defensemen don’t really score that much but sometimes when you need it, you get three out of the four goals. Not bad. Two for me and my D partner got the game-winner. There is nothing better than that.”
Valor, which has gone 85-17-3 over the past five seasons, finished with a 12-2 record in this COVID 19 shortened season.
“The school made a real strong commitment to the hockey program about getting ice time and being serious about hockey,” said Gwozdecky who was head coach at the University of Denver for 19 seasons. “I noticed that and that’s what intrigued me about the position. The first couple years were building years.”
Pahos, who scored the game deciding goal in last season’s championship game, though he had tallied the 2021 title game-winning shot with 4:32 remaining in the game but the goal was waved off.
“I thought we had the winner a few minutes earlier where kind of everybody in the building realized it was a goal but the guys that mattered waved it off,” added Gwozdecky.
“The official told me the puck hit the cross bar post and came out. Then I asked him why did you blow the whistle and stop play? The puck is live on the ice. I got no answer. He just skated away.”
Pahos did get the game winner in overtime as Valor downed Regis Jesuit, 3-2, in one of the semifinal games played March 16. Fort Collins went three overtimes before Nolan Williamson scored 27 seconds into the third extra session in a 3-2 semifinal victory over Chaparral.