Most Viewed Stories
Cheyenne tries to recover from missing hockey playoffs for once
Cheyenne Mountain hockey is in uncharted territory. Never has the program with the richest high school hockey tradition in the state had to rebuild and rebound.
The school has 14 state championships, and had never missed the playoffs in its 65-year history, until last season.
“There is very little carryover from last year,” Cheyenne Mountain second-year coach Erik Austin is quick to say. “There hasn’t been much thought put toward last season; we are carrying a lot of young guys, and they want to establish themselves.”
Who could blame Austin and his players for wanting to forget a 5-12-2 season? When someone laces up skates and dons a Cheyenne Mountain hockey jersey, that’s not the expectation for how a season should go.
While the rest of the state may have celebrated the Indians’ temporary demise in 2011-12, the Indians are hoping those days are over as quickly as they started.
“As soon as that last game ended we had to drop it and forget about it,” senior co-captain Garrett Hodson said of a dismal season. “We have bonded together really well and I’ve never seen a hockey team work harder in the offseason than we did this year.”
Hodson will be charged with leading a large contingent of underclassmen, but he won’t be alone.
The Indians got some great news over the summer – goalie Grant Payne would be joining the team. The senior has been playing for an AAA hockey team and is between the pipes to help his classmates out.
“Grant is an unbelievable goaltender, and I think he will be one of the top two goalies in the state,” said Austin, who played on the Indians’ 1996 state title team. “Having stability and a solid goaltender, we have enough of a talent base to be as good as any team in the city.”
Hodson is just as excited as his coach to have Payne.
“We have high expectations as a team now that Grant is back there,” Hodson said. “We’re ready to get back to playing in the Cheyenne tradition, which means getting into the playoffs and making a run at the trophy.”
The Indians haven’t held the trophy since 2004, which is a drought in Cheyenne Mountain terms.
Austin attributes the eight-year absence to the changing landscape in high school hockey, and the power of the private schools up north.
“It’s harder to win now because there are schools in Denver drawing kids from 14 different high schools, while we are just drawing from one,” Austin said. “We aren’t back to the ‘state-title-or-bust’ mentality yet, but our goal is to build to that very soon.”