Even though his team went 1-2-1 in the Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit Classic, Dublin Jerome High School hockey coach Pat Murphy said it was a positive experience for his players.
The Celtics held their own against some of the top teams in the state in the event held Dec. 28-30 at Kent State Ice Arena and learned valuable lessons about what it takes to beat elite opponents.
"The results weren't great for us in the Walsh Jesuit tournament, but I'm pleased that we were in every game and that we weren't out place playing with some of the best teams in the state," Murphy said. "We found out how good we can be when we play hard and do the right things and, more importantly, we found out what we need to improve on to win against this kind of competition."
The Celtics opened the tournament Dec. 28 with a 4-2 win over Parma Padua, as Alex Booth, Lucas Brush, Jeff Davison and James Eastep each scored and goaltender Shawn Ewert had 11 saves.
Jerome lost to Shaker Heights 4-2 and Hudson 4-1 on Dec. 29 before tying Walsh Jesuit at 3 on Dec. 30.
The Celtics led Shaker Heights 2-0 after two periods behind goals by Zach Moore and Eastep and led Walsh Jesuit 3-0 after two periods behind goals by Brush, Chris Cathis and Eastep, only to squander both leads.
"We built nice leads in both of those games and then we panicked and made poor choices with penalties and turnovers, which led to some letdowns," Murphy said. "We need to compete harder through complete games because we've seen what happens when we take a period off."
Murphy said the Celtics also need to be more opportunistic when it comes to scoring chances. Against Hudson and in a 3-1 loss to DeSales on Nov. 25, Jerome outshot its opponent by more than 20 shots.
"We're getting plenty of shots on goal in all of our games, but we're not finishing them," Murphy said. "We haven't been scoring enough on our power play so far, so that's something we're working hard to improve in practice."
Murphy believes playing in the Walsh Jesuit Classic will help his team in its remaining Capital Hockey Conference games.
Jerome has a pair of key league games this weekend, as it faces Upper Arlington on Friday, Jan. 11, at OhioHealth Ice Haus and Olentangy Liberty on Saturday, Jan. 12, at Chiller North.
The Celtics are 14-5-2 overall and 8-1-1 in the CHC-Red Division after defeating Cincinnati Moeller 2-1 on Jan. 4 and St. Charles 1-0 on Jan. 5 and tying DeSales at 3 on Jan. 6.
Sam Franklin and Davison scored and Ewert had 14 saves against Moeller, and Davison scored and goalie Connor Willette had 17 saves against St. Charles.
"The real competition in our league started (last weekend) and I feel good about the level that we're playing at after competing in the Walsh Jesuit tournament," Murphy said. "St. Charles actually won the Walsh Jesuit tournament, so that was a big win, and we've got some big league games coming up (this) weekend against Upper Arlington and Olentangy Liberty. UA is a tough, physical, hard-working team, and Liberty is one of the best teams in the state right now.
"We can't take anything for granted. We need to play hard for complete games and finish more of our chances. If we take care of those things, I like our chances."
Shamrocks striving for consistent play
Coffman has been streaky this season.
The Shamrocks opened by going 4-0 to win the Midwest Thanksgiving Classic held Nov. 23-25 at Chiller Dublin, beating defending district champion Olentangy Orange 4-3 in the final.
After losing three of its next four games, Coffman won four of its next five, including victories over St. Charles (3-2 on Dec. 15) and Orange (3-1 on Dec. 22) in CHC-Red games.
The Shamrocks then lost five consecutive games, including a 2-1 league loss to UA on Jan. 4 in which they squandered a 1-0 first-period lead.
"The effort's there, so it's hard to figure out why we haven't won games more consistently," senior forward Ian Flinders said. "I thought we made a statement when we beat Orange in the championship game of the Thanksgiving tournament. But we've lost some heartbreakers to Jerome (3-1 on Dec. 16) and Upper Arlington. We just need to turn some of these close losses into victories and we'll get our season turned around."
Coach Eric Park said the Shamrocks must do a better job finishing their scoring chances when they face UA in a league rematch Saturday, Jan. 12, at Chiller Dublin.
"The kids know the game and our system, but we need to play with more grit and character, and that's something that you can't teach," Park said. "We need hockey players, not kids who are playing hockey for fun. We outshot and outplayed UA, but we didn't finish enough of our chances. When we play them again, we need to do more of the little things right and pay the price to score goals."
The Shamrocks beat DeSales 4-0 on Jan. 5 to snap their five-game losing streak.
Through 19 games, Flinders had a team-high 10 goals and five assists, followed by Mark Heneman (9 goals, 4 assists), Matt King (3 goals, 9 assists), Gunner Gruehl (8 goals, 3 assists), Chris DiBiase (6 goals, 5 assists) and Jason Strine (6 goals, 2 assists).
In goal, Grant Powell had a 6-8 record with an .897 save percentage and a 2.90 goals-against average. His backup, Cody Laux, was 3-0 with an .844 save percentage and a 2.10 GAA.
"We had one superstar player (Kevin Putnam) last year, and this year we don't have a superstar but we have a lot more depth," Flinders said. "Grant Powell is doing a great job for us in goal and we're playing good team defense. We just need to finish more consistently in the future."
Vallette leading way for Irish
Senior forward Zach Vallette leads Scioto with 15 goals and 21 points in 18 games.
Junior forward Tate Bowen is next with five goals and eight points, followed by junior defenseman Scott Carter with three goals and five points.
Senior forward Jake Harter leads the Irish with 85 hits, followed by Vallette with 83.
Scioto is 1-17 and has lost 14 consecutive games. Its only victory was a 1-0 win over Whitehouse Anthony Wayne on Nov. 25.