Fans watching Licking Heights High School senior defenseman Sean Straker play with the PRPC Ice Prowlers club hockey team are probably reminded of his older brother, Ryan Straker, who also was an undersized enforcer on PRPC's blue line before graduating in 2008.

Fans watching Licking Heights High School senior defenseman Sean Straker play with the PRPC Ice Prowlers club hockey team are probably reminded of his older brother, Ryan Straker, who also was an undersized enforcer on PRPC's blue line before graduating in 2008.

"He was even smaller than me," said Sean, who is 5-foot-11, 150 pounds. "He was always the smallest player out there, but he drilled kids twice his size. Guys like us, we just play with a lot of heart."

Ryan starred on some of PRPC's most successful teams, including the one that captured the Greater Columbus High School Club Hockey League's Blue Jackets Cup title in 2007. Now his younger sibling is playing a key role for a team that was 9-4 in the league and shared first place (18 points) with Hilliard and Athens entering last Friday's games. The Ice Prowlers, who defeated Hilliard for the second time in three meetings this season 4-3 on Dec. 11 to post their fourth victory in five games, played Athens last Saturday in their final contest before Christmas break.

Despite sitting out two games because of suspensions relating to his aggressive play, Sean Straker led the Ice Prowlers in hits (33) and penalty minutes (44) through 13 games. His six points (one goal, five assists) led the defensemen. He drew suspensions for seven games a year ago yet still totaled 91 hits to rank second on the team behind Watkins Memorial's Jake Miller (93).

"That's just my game," he said. "I go all out all the time. Sometimes there's a price to pay, though, I guess."

PRPC coach Joe Tonello, while abhorring an onslaught on penalties, likes the attitude Sean Straker and the other captains are bringing to the ice.

"They're showing a lot of emotion and the other guys feed off that," he said. "Sean brings it all. He's emotional, he plays hard and he's being vocal.

"I'd like to see us in the penalty box a little less because we're pretty tough to beat five-on-five, but we definitely play better when we're playing with a lot of emotion. We've seen that here over the past few games."

Sean Straker, who ranked fourth on the team with a plus-12 rating, rarely comes off the ice. He was among the team's leaders with three power-play assists entering last Saturday, and he's also on the penalty-kill unit.

"I love special teams; they're my favorite, in fact," he said. "(Nathan) Billups is a scoring machine (21 points, including 15 assists through 13 games) and Kyle Baughman (21 points, team-best plus-18 rating) is so quick he can just skate around people. Kyle Hyer (19 points, including 12 goals), we call him 'Mr. Ohio' because he's playing so well. Then there's Jake (15 points), who has such quick hands and a quick shot, and Alex Fultz, who is one of our best guys playing short-handed. We're definitely getting it done on special teams."

Entering last Friday, Westerville and Northeast were tied for fourth place in the GCHSCHL with 13 points each. The top four teams during the regular season qualify for the state club tournament.

The Ice Prowlers resume play on Jan. 2 with a scrimmage against the 18-and-under Dayton Bombers. They return to league play with games on Jan. 8 against Westerville and Jan. 9 against Newark.

"The second half is going to be just as tight," Tonello said. "We're giving the guys some time off for Christmas and we'll practice only once over the two weeks. We just have to come back playing with the same intensity."