In states like Minnesota, high school hockey is the only hockey prep athletes play. In Colorado, club organizations have dominated the scene and put the sport on the map. But there is another option out there that is starting to see strong growth thanks to one team.
Regis Jesuit is widely considered a powerhouse among Colorado high school teams. Winning four state championships in the past ten years, the Raiders have developed a stronger bond among its players.
"Regis has a club team. We play together all year. We play some 25 odd games during the fall season," senior Kyle Nelson said. "We get to become an even more cohesive group. [We] get to know our line mates better, get to know how we play together, so that is a big benefit of not playing with some of the club organizations."
"There's no way that we can't be more successful than teams that don't have that coaching or have that experience or that chemistry we've built over the fall season and over the tournaments that we've travel to this season. Undoubtedly, it provides us an advantage," senior Cade Alcock added.
For the past handful of seasons, Regis has played in two leagues that co-exist for high school hockey. In the fall, the team plays in the Colorado Prep Hockey League, a season that runs August through October. In November, the team plays in the Colorado High School Activities Association league that ends the following March.
"This is the best the league's ever been in terms of competition," Alcock said. "I've been here four years and watched my brother play two years before me so, this is absolutely the best league, the best competition that we've had."
"I think there was a record-high 32 teams in CHSAA this year, so I think [hockey] is really coming along," Regis junior Shane Ott added. "Kids want to play for their high school."
In addition, the Raiders will travel to tournaments where they will face other high school teams. On occasion, they will face off with other club organizations. The goal is to mirror the schedule of a club hockey team, creating strong team chemistry and getting looks for those players looking to play beyond the high school level in the process. Next year, Alcock and Nelson will be playing for the Calgary Canucks in the Albert Junior Hockey League.
This option also provides players an alternative to playing the sport, but with their high school teammates year round, instead.
"Seeing your friends and your buddies in the stands is awesome," Alcock said. "That's part of the draw."
"We have a lot of students who come from the school, and you get a lot of support," Ott said. "It is really nice to have a lot of support from your school, from your administration and I think it makes the games a lot more exciting."
This year, the Raiders amassed a total record of 46-4-2. They made it to the 2017 state championship game, where they fell to Monarch, 2-1.