Gators, Mustangs creating rivalry on ice
ARVADA - “Why Can’t We Be Friends” blasts over the loud speakers at the APEX Center as the Ralston Valley and Standley Lake hockey team battle it out on the ice.
Which is just fitting for the matchup between these two familiar foes in what has become one of Colorado’s most heated rivalries on skates.
“If you can’t get up for this game than I don’t know why you play,” Standley Lake’s coach Rich Pijanowski said. “These are always fun games.”
The competition was apparent on Feb. 6 as both squads battled for each puck and during each face-off. And each team had its fair share of time in the penalty box. Even Standley Lake’s goalie Tyler Goff took some time to recuperate in the third period after a save in which he was pelted with hockey sticks.
“They are obviously the closest team to us and a lot of our kids know their kids,” Ralston Valley’s coach Matt Schoepflin said. “Games against Standley Lake are always circled. It is something that is building because both schools have put together good teams.”
And for the Mustangs it was a chance to get a little revenge on the Gators, who topped Ralston Valley earlier this season in a non-league game. And what better way than squeaking out a 3-2 overtime victory over their neighboring rivals. Greg Dyba found the back of the net to get the victory for the Mustangs after getting a pass from Tanner West at the 1:37 mark of overtime. West and Austin Resseguie also scored for the Mustangs, while Mitch McEwan and Connor Watkins each had goals for Standley Lake.
“It was such a relief,” Ralston Valley’s Joe Millar said. “We were so happy, we jumped all over each other like it was a state champion game. We always want to beat Standley Lake.”
The Mustangs have done just that over the past two seasons, losing only once to the Gators in the previous five meeting -- a 4-3 defeat earlier this season. And that loss was a bit of a wakeup call for Ralston Valley, which has won 12 of its past 13 games.
“It’s been a good run so far,” Schoepflin said. “There are a good group of guys on this team and they are working hard. We are getting to the fun part of the season.”
Both teams have used the rivalry game to get their squads going.
The win has helped propel the Mustangs to a 2-0-1 record over their previous three games with only two games left in the season. Ralston Valley gave Regis Jesuit its first loss of the season Friday, beating the Raiders 2-1 Friday. The Mustangs also battled to a 4-4 tie with Resurrection Christian on Monday.
Standley Lake rebounded to win its next two games, beating Summit 1-0 Friday and then topping Pueblo County 6-1 in the home finale on Saturday.
“I think (Ralston Valley) loss is just what the doctor ordered for us,” Pijanowski said. “A rivalry game to get up and get going.”
And if fate has its way these two squads will once again meet in the playoffs. Last season Ralston Valley cruised to a 7-1 victory over the Gators and advanced to the state title game.
“That would be fun to see them again in the playoffs,” Pijanowski said.
Before either squad can think about the postseason it needs to take care of business in the regular season. Standley Lake(11-5-2 overall, 8-3-2 Foothills League) closes out the season at Resurrection Christian on Friday, while Ralston Valley (14-2, 10-1 FL) travels to Mullen and Steamboat Springs to finish out the regular season.