Lewis-Palmer (17-1) already might be playing with its back against the wall when it faces Mountain Vista (17-1) and its explosive offense for the Peak Conference title on Friday.
The Golden Eagles from Highlands Ranch are that good.
But now, the Rangers will have to do it without two of their six senior leaders, as defenseman Taylor Hill and forward Brayden Yatsu have both been ruled out for the rest of the year after suffering season-ending injuries in games over the past two weeks.
Yatsu, who had 15 points in 14 games, tore his ACL two weeks ago, and Hill broke his ankle Saturday against Cheyenne Mountain.
“It would be tough to lose one guy like that, but two is really tough for us,” first-year Lewis-Palmer coach Hal Jordan said on Thursday. “Brayden has been one of our top four or so forwards, and Hill really became our No. 2 defender. They’ll be missed the rest of the season, especially tomorrow. I mean Mountain Vista is a very tough game even at full strength.”
Very tough? Probably an understatement. Led by Brandon Tangney (third in the state with 23 goals) and Ryan Daughtery (No. 4 with 22), the Golden Eagles have scored a state-leading 171 times to their 15 goals allowed.
(Lewis-Palmer is second in the state with 125 goals to 25 allowed.)
Jordan — who knows most of the Mountain Vista team from club play — said there’s no question about it, the Golden Eagles have the best offense in the league.
The only way the Rangers can stop their assault, he said, is with a good offense of their own.
“We will need to have the puck in our zone a lot. Lots of shots and lots pressure on them down there. The best way to keep them off the board is to keep the puck away from them, and stay out of the penalty box,” said Jordan, whose team had the third-fewest penalty minutes in the league this season. “I mean, if not, here’s a team that wasn’t beating everyone 5-2 or 6-2 like we were. They were winning 17-0, 18-0 regularly. We’ll have to play our best to have a shot.”
The winner of Friday’s game will face the eighth seed in the Foothills Conference, while the loser will face the seventh seed.
“If we can play the lower-seeded teams in the Foothills Conference, that would benefit us,” Jordan said. “They are the much deeper conference over there, so we’ll need to get set up the best we can before we meet them, and that starts tomorrow. … Tomorrow is a big game.”
Puck drops at 8:15 p.m. at CSC East.
Note: Mountain Vista has outscored Colorado Springs schools 76-2 this season.
Brent W. New, The Gazette
Twitter: @brentwnew @gazettepreps