First-year challenges are nothing new for hockey coach

Column by Jim Benton
Posted 1/2/18

Many years ago, I wrote a paper about the value of experience. This is another tale about lessons than can be learned from experience. Chaparral has a first-year hockey team competing in the Colorado …

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First-year challenges are nothing new for hockey coach


Many years ago, I wrote a paper about the value of experience.

This is another tale about lessons than can be learned from experience.

Chaparral has a first-year hockey team competing in the Colorado High School Hockey Association’s Pinnacle Conference and has a coach in Ryan Finnefrock who knows what it is like to be included in an infant program.

Finnefrock played hockey for Ralston Valley when the program was getting started and now is in charge of launching the program for Chaparral.

“I played for Ralston Valley from 2006-10,” said Finnefrock. “I was part of the four straight Final Four runs and two losses in the state championship games. I was a freshman when it first started.

“I learned a lot from John McKibbon, my head coach in high school. Even today through the process of getting a team started I call him for advice. He’s been a great help.”

Finnefrock played hockey at St. John’s University. He is now a social studies teacher at Chaparral and the hockey coach for the first-year program which draws players from the Parker schools of Chaparral, Legend and Ponderosa.

“You have to have a lot of tools in place,” said Finnefrock. “Our athletic director, Rob Johnson, did a good job of supporting us in the beginning and we had a lot of interest and support from parents, and then the three coaches out here helping me out (Chuck Jones, Mike Koutecky and Tim Walsh) have seen these players since they were 5 years old.

“These kids play for Parker and get a chance to wear a uniform that supports their community. They all played for Arapahoe (youth) growing up and we were happy to get it going.”

Chaparral was ranked in the top 10 early in the season but entered the holiday break with a 4-3-0 overall record and a 3-3-0 mark in the Pinnacle Conference.

“We have a lot of work to do, but the potential is limitless for this team,” said Finnefrock. “If we buy into what we are preaching you’ll see some things come February that will surprise a lot of teams. We have the get a lot of guys to buy in right now.

“We have great senior leadership. John Fulton and Alex Walsh are two kids that grew up playing with each other. They are the right guys to lead this team. They know we have a lot of work to do. They know there are going to be some bumps in the road for a beginning-year team. When we get people to buy in, it’s going to be special.”

Fulton, a senior who attends Ponderosa, played last season for Castle View and was the 2017 Colorado Community Media South Metro Player of the Year.

In seven games so far this season, Tyler Johnson leads the Wolverines in scoring with 14 points on 10 goals and four assists. Fulton has 13 points with six goals and seven assists.

“It’s different to be on a first-year team but it’s special because we have something to prove,” said Fulton. “No other team knows us, so when we go out there it is a challenge. We want to prove we can compete with anybody and I think we can. It’s a process to get going. We have some stuff to work on and that shows, but the harder we work the more we are going to surprise people.

“This year is more special because it’s the Parker schools. Before it was like Parker and Castle Rock. This is a little more like my team in a way.”

Woodland Park is the other new team in CHSAA hockey this season and the Panthers are 0-6-0 to start their initial season.

Best teams, overall record-wise, heading into the post-holiday schedule are Monarch at 7-0-0, Regis Jesuit at 6-0-0, Crested Butte at 5-0-0, Valor Christian at 6-1-0 and Cherry Creek at 5-1-0. Steamboat Springs, Standley Lake and Fort Collins are 4-1-0.

State basketball leaders

In an effort to stay informed, I figured it was time to check the individual basketball leaders as teams resumed play Jan. 3.

There were many players from local teams among the state front-runners so to save space, just the state leaders will be mentioned.

In 5A girls, Cherry Creek’s Jana Van Gytenbeck leads the state with 7.1 assists per game and Castle View’s Madison Hema leads with 3.5 blocks per game. Brandon Romero of Mountain Range has made 35 3-pointers to lead the state’s 5A boys while Caden Sehr of Legacy is tops with 4.1 steals a game.

Golden’s MaKena Prey leads 4A girls in scoring with a 24.9 average and Savannah Martin of Standley Lake is the top rebounder with 12.8 per game. Izzy Hren of Holy Family is averaging seven assists a game to lead the state and Alameda’s Angel Bernard is the steals leader with 6.3 per game.

Jim Benton is a sports writer for Colorado Community Media. He has been covering sports in the Denver area since 1968. He can be reached at jbenton@coloradocommunitymedia.com or at 303-566-4083.


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