George Gwozdecky has built a high school hockey power at Valor Christian High School and he hopes to continue his work for at least a few more seasons.
Valor Christian won its third Class 5A state hockey championship over the past four seasons with a 7-3 win over Ralston Valley on March 7 at the University of Denver’s Magness Arena.
Gwozdecky, the 69-year-old former college coach and National Hockey League assistant, was named head coach at Valor in 2015 and wins have accompanied him.
Valor has gone 131-30-5 with Gwozdecky as head coach and made five straight trips to the state championship game.
“This is probably the most depth we’ve had in the eight years I’ve been at Valor,” said Gwozdecky. “I’m having a ball and I really enjoy it. I’m really involved in high school hockey, not only at Valor but I’m on the national rules board and I help run the Team Colorado camp.
“I’m really involved with high school hockey and I’m having a blast. So as long as they will have me, I want to keep doing this.”
Valor won its 20th straight game in the title encounter against Ralston Valley and finished the season with a 20-1 record.
Six players scored goals for Valor, which went three-for-five on the power play.
Senior Noah Fekete had two goals to go along with two assists to give him four points. Alec Alfieri, another of the 13 seniors on the Valor roster, had a goal and assist for three points.
Other goal scorers were Aiden Owen, Garrett Convey, Nick Maronna and Maddux Charles in what was the highest-scoring state title game in 31 years.
And, the game followed the Class 4A title game, which was the complete opposite as Cheyenne Mountain downed Glenwood Springs 1-0 in three overtimes.
Valor led only 4-3 heading into the third period but Fekete scored 45 seconds into the period, Charles added a power play goal and Fekete wrapped up the scoring with 3:09 remaining in the game as the Eagles rebounded from a loss to Denver East in last season’s championship game.
“Certainly the power play goal was a big one for us and the early goal in the third period was obviously huge,” said Gwozdecky. “These guys have worked really hard to get back to this game. They sensed with 17 minutes to go that it was their game if they wanted it.”
Gwozdecky was returning to Magness Arena after 19 years as University of Denver hockey coach where he coached two NCAA title teams.
“This was home for 19 years,” he said. “It’s kind of nice to be back here, winning a game.”
It took some adjustments for Gwozdecky when he accepted the Valor job before the start of the 2015-16 season. The Eagles went 10-9-1 that first campaign and Valor lost 10-1 to Ralston Valley in the state playoffs.
“I had no idea what was in store for me that first year at Valor,” Gwozdecky recalled. “The administration was so patient with me. I had no experience at all at the high school level. I thought I knew what I was doing, but I was completely (out of my element). It wasn’t the X’s and O’s I’m talking about, but the running of the program at the high school level on an everyday basis and learning how to deal with knucklehead high school boys.
“All of a sudden I’ve got guys who can’t make practice because they have a job, or have a dentist appointment, or had Boy Scouts. I was like, ‘What?”
Gwozdecky will be facing another challenge next season at Valor.
“Most of the guys are seniors this year,” he said. “We’re going to really have to reload. We have some guys that we will be moving up but we also have a number of kids that are going to school at Valor who knew they couldn’t make the Valor varsity team and played club hockey. And they are going to want to play high school hockey next year.”