Alex Ward and the St. Charles Preparatory School hockey team will be in a dream situation at 1 p.m. Friday, March 7, at Nationwide Arena.
The senior goaltender and his teammates will get a chance to play on NHL ice when the sixth-ranked Cardinals face Sylvania Northview in a state semifinal.
"I came to St. Charles four years ago with hopes of playing at Nationwide and we made it. It's like a dream for us," said Ward, who had 20 saves March 1 as the top-seeded Cardinals beat second-seeded Olentangy Orange 3-1 in a district final at OhioHealth Ice Haus. "I played a club game there a few years ago and lost 11-1. Hopefully it will be a lot different this time."
St. Charles improved to 34-3-2 and won its first district title three weeks after winning the program's first Blue Jackets Cup. Orange finished 27-5-3-2.
Northview improved to 16-13-1 by defeating second-ranked Toledo St. John's 4-2 in the Northwest District final March 1. The Wildcats reached a state semifinal for the third consecutive season.
In 2012, they defeated Orange 6-0 in a semifinal and won the championship by beating Lakewood St. Edward 5-2. Last year, they defeated Olentangy Liberty 4-2 in a semifinal before losing to Shaker Heights 3-1 in the final.
Area teams are 0-7 in state semifinals since 2003, when the Central/Southwest District was granted a berth at state. Upper Arlington got the closest to reaching the state final, losing 3-2 to Parma Padua in 2007.
"No matter who we play, we have to limit shots, keep control and keep our nerves in check," said coach Rob Sangster, whose team scored three third-period goals to defeat Northview 5-2 on Dec. 28 en route to winning the Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit Warrior Shootout at Kent State. "These guys have put in the time and have worked so hard, but not just to get to state. They want to be the first (team from central Ohio) to win that first (semifinal) game."
The winner advances to play top-ranked Cleveland St. Ignatius or fourth-ranked Mentor Lake Catholic in the championship game at 2 p.m. Saturday, March 8, at Nationwide Arena. The Cardinals have not played St. Ignatius (28-4-5) or Lake Catholic (24-8-3) this season.
The Cardinals have won 17 consecutive games since losing to Mississauga (Ontario) Mount Caramel 4-0 on Jan. 5 in the Brother James Memorial Tournament at Gates Mills Gilmour Academy.
St. Charles started quickly in the district final, as Clayton Klosz scored 15 seconds after the puck dropped off a pass from Daniel Schirtzinger. Orange's Brandon Voytus tied the game at 1 with 8:08 left in the first period before Schirtzinger gave the Cardinals the lead for good with 3:29 left in the first.
Ryan Cleary added an empty-net goal with 26.3 seconds to play.
"I was almost star-struck," Cleary said. "I knew we were going to win and I was pretty much basking in it taking it all the way to the net."
Basketball team reaches district semi
The 27th-seeded basketball team was 13-9 before playing second-seeded Gahanna on March 4 in its first Division I district semifinal.
"We went into the draw trying to get to our first district semifinal in Division I, which (is) great for the program," coach Jacob Daniel said.
"We thought this (bracket position was) our best chance of reaching that goal when we chose."
The winner advanced to a district final Saturday, March 8, at the Fairgrounds Coliseum against third-seeded UA or 12th-seeded Grove City. The Greyhounds were 17-6 and UA was 23-1 before playing March 5. Neither team has played the Cardinals this season.
The district champion advances to a regional semifinal March 13 at the Fairgrounds against second-ranked Zanesville, Marysville, Pickerington Central or Westerville South.
Sean Hennessey scored 18 points and hit five of the Cardinals' 11 3-pointers in a 66-53 victory at 19th-seeded Groveport on Feb. 28 in a second-round game. David Aslaner had 17 points with three 3s, Nick Pappa had 13 points with three 3s and Matt Hennessey added 11 points.
Rooney places fourth at state wrestling
Junior Tim Rooney lost to Oregon Clay's Gavin Nelson 4-3 in a consolation final to place fourth at 138 pounds in the Division I state wrestling tournament held Feb. 27-March 1 at Ohio State.
Nelson scored a takedown with 2 seconds left to earn the victory.
Last season, Rooney was fifth at state at 126.
"I don't like to lose, but hey, it's a sport, you're supposed to have fun," Rooney said, as he smiled while shaking his head. "I just have to work hard to come back next year and win it."
Rooney went 4-2 at state to finish 41-7 overall. He lost 3-2 to eventual champion Mike Kostandaras of Walsh Jesuit in the opening round, taking the tough route to finishing fourth by winning four consolation matches.
Rooney earned the highest state finish of the three Central District wrestlers who placed at 138. David Sparks of Marysville won the fifth-place match by pin over Dublin Coffman's Dominick Demas.
The Cardinals tied Hilliard Davidson and Olentangy for 40th (11) behind champion Massillon Perry (185) as 78 teams scored.
Thomas finishes 38th at district bowling
Noah Thomas of the bowling team finished 38th in the Division I district tournament March 1 at Eastland Lanes, but didn't advance to state Friday, March 7, at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl.
Thomas rolled a 513 three-game series. Walnut Ridge's Wayne Russell Jr. (643) was the individual champion and Liberty's Jack Baggs (611), Davidson's Zack Starner (599), Liberty's Mike Shiner (585) and Hilliard Bradley's Brandon Knadler (581) were the individual state qualifiers.