It's true that the Gahanna Lincoln High School hockey team's performance at the Strongsville Ehrnfelt Tournament on Jan. 15-18 did not directly impact the Capital Hockey Conference standings.

It's true that the Gahanna Lincoln High School hockey team's performance at the Strongsville Ehrnfelt Tournament on Jan. 15-18 did not directly impact the Capital Hockey Conference standings.

But the four wins that Gahanna picked up at the Ehrnfelt Tournament were absolutely vital to the confidence of a team that is fighting for a spot in the Blue Jackets Cup. Gahanna came into the tournament on a four-game losing streak and had only four wins all season.

"It was a big morale boost for the team," defenseman Alex Barok said. "After all those losses, we were down, trying to figure out a way to get out of it. Those wins helped a lot."

Coach Dante Scuderi said it was no accident that the Lions snapped out of their funk at Strongsville. For the first time all season, Gahanna had its entire lineup available.

"It was the first weekend we had a truly healthy team," Scuderi said. "That's great for confidence. We're behind the eight-ball a little bit as far as the conference, but with our health back in order, I think we can compete with just about anybody."

The good news for the Lions is that eight of their 13 losses have come against non-conference opponents early in the season. Gahanna entered last weekend's competition 10th out of 14 teams in the CHC. After going 2-1 over the weekend, the Lions moved to ninth at 4-5 with eight points, just behind eighth-place Thomas Worthington (4-5-1-1, 10).

The Lions still have four conference games remaining, all of which will be crucial to determining whether they finish in the top eight and earn a spot in the main draw of the Blue Jackets Cup. Gahanna plays Friday at Chiller Easton against Upper Arlington, Saturday at Chiller North against Olentangy Orange, Feb. 6 at Chiller Easton against Dublin Jerome and Feb. 7 at Chiller North vs. Worthington Kilbourne. All four opponents are currently between fourth and 10th place in the league.

Goaltending has been a big reason the Lions have been able to pick up a few more wins in recent weeks. Gahanna has used four different goalies throughout the season, but senior Phillip Wellmer has had the hot hand recently. Wellmer started the final three games at Strongs-ville, allowing just six goals while making 52 saves. Wellmer also allowed just two goals in the two games he started last weekend.

"His level has gone up and we'd like to see him crank it up a little bit more," Scuderi said.

Even with a fully healthy team, the Lions have stuck with some of the lineup changes they made earlier in the year, including keeping Brad Tarbutton on defense. Tarbutton, who has been one of the leading scorers the past two seasons, began the season as a forward but moved back to defense when Connor Smallwood went down in December.

"He's really been a good asset on defense," Scuderi said. "His goal output has actually increased. Being in the defensive end, it just allows him to quarterback the play from the rear of the ice forward. I think he's creating a few more situations, not only for himself but for the guys who are around him."

Fatigue could be a concern for the Lions, who played seven games in a 10-day span through last Sunday with two more games this weekend. Scuderi said he gave the team a day off on Jan. 21, but the players still can't afford to let their intensity slip.

"It seems that we just take it for granted that we have a good core group of seniors here and I think sometimes the expectation is that, 'Well, I'm a senior, I can just go out and it should be granted to me,'" Scuderi said. "That's our main focus, to keep our intensity level up and know that success and winning isn't easy. It takes lots and lots of determination and hard work."