DENVER – It’s a good thing that Reece Peterson got his first goal for Regis Jesuit with 15:46 left in the second period. His second was every bit as impressive as the breakaway goal he had scored just seconds earlier to put the Raiders on the board.

Except for the fact that it didn’t count.

Peterson raised his arms in celebration as he fired the puck by Valor goalie Trudeaux Coffey, but the official behind the net signaled no goal as play continued. For the rest of the period that no-goal held like a dark cloud over what was turning into a fantastic hockey game.

It didn’t entirely matter as the Raiders scored two late empty netters to get a 3-1 win over Valor Christian to win the Class 5A state hockey title, the first for the program since 2019.

“The ref told me it [went in],” Peterson said. “The non-orange striped ref said that. But it was too late to change it.”

Peterson was referring to the linesman trailing the play. The referee behind the net had signaled no goal.

A potential 2-0 lead sat at 1-0 and all the Raiders had to do at that point was rely on freshman goaltender Easton Sparks.

The kid stood on head and turned away 23 of 24 shots, including a penalty shot in the first period. Maddux Charles had scored a combined five goals for Valor in the last two playoff games, but Sparks flight denied him in the one-on-none chance.

There wasn’t anyone the Raiders would rather have between the pipes in this moment.

“They’ve trusted me all year,” Sparks said. “I had to prove myself, obviously, as a freshman. We made it clear that I have their back, but they also have to have mine. That’s exactly what they did, and it was an unreal feeling.”

(Dan Mohrmann/

The return to championship glory for the Raiders has felt like a long time coming for those in the program. Second-year coach Terence Ott, a longtime assistant to previous Raiders coach Dan Woodley, had wanted to get his team on the opposite side of the bracket as Valor because he knew the showcase the two teams put on at Magness Arena was worthy of a championship game.

“This group, I can’t speak highly enough of and how they’ve come together as a team and re-established that culture,” Ott said. “Any time you can come back to this game…the last few years we haven’t done enough to get on the opposite side of the bracket. We’re always meeting Valor in the state semifinal and we haven’t been able to get one by them in those games. It was nice to get on the opposite side of the bracket this time and have it come down to a state championship game.”

And a thrilling one at that.

This is the seventh state hockey title for the Raiders which is second-most in state history behind Cheyenne Mountain.

It’s an experience that a lot of these players, especially the young ones, would love to go through again.

“We haven’t won one since 2019,” Sparks said. “Being a freshman and coming out and winning one in my first year, there is no feeling other than having love for my guys and pure happiness.”

Happiness doesn’t discriminate against two or three-goal victories in a state title game. Peterson and Sparks did enough to earn a hockey title while Parker Brinner and Ian Beck added empty-net goals in the closing minute to erase any and all controversy.

“A win is a win,” Peterson said.

And it’s easy to say when holding championship gold.

(Dan Mohrmann/