As the Dublin Jerome High School hockey team continued to control the puck, produce quality scoring chances and fail to score against Olentangy Orange midway through the final of the Blue Jackets Cup, coach Pat Murphy couldn't help but have flashbacks to last year's district final.
In that game, the top-seeded Celtics outshot the fourth-seeded Pioneers 56-21 but managed to get only two shots past Orange goaltender Clayton Horvath in a 3-2 quadruple-overtime loss.
However, in the Cup final Feb. 10 at OhioHealth Ice Haus, Jerome sustained its offensive assault long enough to eventually earn a 2-0 victory over Orange. The Cup title is the second in a row for the Celtics and sixth in eight years.
"This has become a big rivalry between our two teams and we couldn't help but remember last year in the back of our minds, especially since the games were similar in a lot of ways," Murphy said. "We dominated play the whole game, but Orange is a strong defensive team and we had a lot of trouble scoring against them once again. The difference was we never let up this time. We ended up outshooting them 36-9, and this time we made enough plays to win the game."
The Celtics took a 1-0 lead in the second period when forward Chase Rose scored on a rebound off Horvath's pads on a 3-on-2 breakaway. They scored again on a similar play with eight minutes remaining in the third period, when forward Alex Booth jammed a rebound past Horvath.
"Orange plays a defensive system that doesn't give up a lot of quality looks, so it's tough to pass the puck in front of their net," said Murphy, whose team is 24-8-3. "We were pressing to get the puck past (Horvath) because he's arguably the best goaltender in our conference.
"There are three ways to beat quality goaltenders, and that's back-door plays, screens and rebounds. In this case, we scored on rebounds. The goals weren't pretty, but nobody cares how you score goals. They only care how many goals you score."
Jerome goalie Connor Willette had to make only nine saves to earn the shutout. Forwards Lucas Brush, Alex Cathis and Jonathan Lelli each had one assist.
"Orange is a team that waits for you to make a mistake and capitalizes on it," Murphy said. "We limited their chances by making very few mistakes."
Jerome has turned its attention toward trying to win its first district title.
Seeded third of 23 teams, the Celtics have a first-round bye in the district tournament and will face 16th-seeded Kettering Alter or 20th-seeded Cincinnati Sycamore in the second round at 12:45 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 17, at the Ice Haus.
The winner will face sixth-seeded Springboro, 10th-seeded DeSales or 22nd-seeded Dublin Scioto in a district quarterfinal Feb. 23 at the Ice Haus.
"It's really difficult to repeat (as Cup champion) because everyone's gunning for you, so it's a special accomplishment," Murphy said. "We felt we had a chance if we played Celtic hockey, which is playing strong team defense and getting a lot of people involved. If we can continue to play this way, I think we've got a chance to be very successful in the district tournament."
Jerome opened the Cup tournament with a 4-1 win over DeSales on Feb. 7 and beat Cincinnati Moeller 5-2 in a semifinal Feb. 8 before facing Orange. Both games were at the Ice Haus.
Against DeSales, Cathis had two goals, Brush and forward James Eastep each scored one and Willette had 15 saves. Against Moeller, Cathis, Eastep, Rose, forward Jeff Davison and forward Chris Cathis each scored and Willette had 17 saves.
"We have two good goaltenders, but Connor was hot so we rode him through the tournament," Murphy said. "He was so good in each game that we couldn't take him out."
Shamrocks eye start of district tourney
Seventh-seeded Coffman has a first-round bye in the district tournament and will face 11th-seeded Troy or 15th-seeded Centerville in the second round at7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 17, at the Ice Haus.
The winner will face second-seeded Orange, 12th-seeded Gahanna or 21st-seeded Watterson in a district quarterfinal Feb. 23 at the Ice Haus.
Last year, sixth-seeded Coffman reached a semifinal before losing to top-seeded Jerome 4-0.
"We need to play together as a unit and each fill our roles for us to be successful as a team," senior forward Chris DiBiase said. "We're not a pretty team, so we need to work hard and score dirty goals. Sometimes it depletes us when we give up a goal, so we have to do a better job of fighting back when we're behind."
Coffman opened the Blue Jackets Cup with a 3-1 loss to Orange on Feb. 7. Forward Ian Flinders had the Shamrocks' lone goal and goalie Grant Powell had 24 saves.
"We came into the game with the mindset that Orange was a team we could beat," said DiBiase, whose team is 15-15. "They went ahead 3-0 early in the second period and then we turned things around and played a lot better, but it proved to be too late."
Irish getting ready for district opener
Seeded 22nd, Scioto will play 10th-seeded DeSales in the first round of the district tournament 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 16, at the Ice Haus, with the winner facing sixth-seeded Springboro in the second round at 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 17, at the Ice Haus.
Last season, the Irish lost to Sycamore 8-2 in the first round of district.
Scioto, which enters the tournament at 4-27, lost to Kilbourne 9-3 in the first round of the consolation bracket of the Blue Jackets Cup on Feb. 8 at Chiller Dublin. Forward Zach Vallette scored all three goals and goalie Christian Rice had 44 saves.