Last year, the Newark Generals became the first team from the Greater Columbus High School Club Hockey League to sweep the regular-season, Blue Jackets Cup and Buckeye Cup Ohio High School Club Hockey State Championship Tournament titles.

Last year, the Newark Generals became the first team from the Greater Columbus High School Club Hockey League to sweep the regular-season, Blue Jackets Cup and Buckeye Cup Ohio High School Club Hockey State Championship Tournament titles.

A pair of setbacks against the Athens Bobcats during the Blue Jackets Cup two weeks ago prevented the Generals from even having the opportunity to duplicate that impressive hat trick.

But as the saying goes, two out of three isn't bad, either.

"That's our thinking right now, definitely," forward Peter York, a senior from Granville, said last week as the team began its preparations for the state tournament, which begins Friday in Cincinnati. "We've been back and forth with Athens all year and we beat them twice (during an 11-0-4 run at the end of the regular season and finish atop the standings at 14-5-6 with 34 points) to get the top seed (for the Blue Jackets Cup)."

In fact, coach Don Jennings believes there's a strong possibility the rivals will meet again in a semifinal or perhaps even the championship game at the state tournament, which concludes March 7. Games will be played in both the Cincinnati Gardens and Northland Ice Rink.

"Athens is obviously a very fine team," said Jennings, whose team is 22-8-6 overall and 17-3-4 since Dec. 10. "I wouldn't be surprised if it played out like last year when we played a Columbus team (the PRPC Ice Prowlers) in the final (and won 4-1).

"And who knows? It's possible that all four Columbus teams could go to the semifinals. The league was that strong this year."

The event will begin with three four-team pools with each team playing three games. Five points are up for grabs in each with a team earning one for every period it wins and two for winning the game.

Half-points are awarded when a period is tied, and teams take one point for a tie game.

The four teams with the most points regardless of which pool they play in advance to the semifinals.

The GCHSCHL's other entries are the Hilliard/Southwest Wildcats and PRPC, which is the only team from the league to qualify every season since the state tournament began in 2005. Athens in 2008 is the only other GCHSCHL team to win it.

League tournaments in the Cleveland-based North Coast High School Hockey League and Cincinnati High School Hockey League are wrapping up this weekend, and the full state-tournament field will be known after four teams from each of those leagues qualify. The regular-season champion Medina Bees (NCHSHL) and Lakota East Thunderbirds (CHSHL) already have clinched spots.

The Generals are playing in the state tournament for a third consecutive season. They won all five games a year ago, also turning back the Lakota West Firebirds 5-4 in overtime in a semifinal, but might be short on personnel because of the state band and orchestra competitions, Jennings said.

Tony Chase, a senior from Granville, has been cleared to play Friday. But late last week Jennings wasn't sure of the status of Clay Beckholt, a junior from Newark who centers the second line, for Saturday.

Scoring no goals in two games against Athens at the Blue Jackets Cup likely won't sit well, either.

The Bobcats prevailed 2-0 in a championship semifinal and also 3-0 in the final Feb. 21 after the Generals came back through the elimination bracket. The season series is tied at 3 wins each, which includes Newark's 3-1 victory on Jan. 28 and 2-0 triumph on Feb. 4 down the stretch.

The Bobcats lead in aggregate scoring 11-9, however.

"Their line matching (at the Blue Jackets Cup) was real good," Parini said. "We've been working on getting more shots off, and maybe we'll even mix our lines up a little bit. I don't know. It's just going to come down to forechecking and getting past their (defensemen)."