Northeast coach Andrew Kieta can see the finish line. He knows the Storm will have to battle to finish among the top four in the Greater Columbus High School Club Hockey League to earn a spot in the state tournament.
"We know what we have to do. Now it's about going out and doing it," Kieta said. "We need to execute and play with confidence, and I think we will. We're as healthy right now as we have been since Thanksgiving, even though we're not quite at full strength."
Through Jan. 5, Hilliard (11-2-1, 23 points) was atop the league standings, followed by Westerville (9-5, 18), Northeast (5-6-2, 12), Newark (4-1-3, 11), PRPC (5-9, 10) and Athens (0-11, 0).
"Newark is only a point (behind us through Jan. 5), but they've played quite a few less games," Kieta said. "The good news for us is that we got a healthy break with 10 to 12 days off the ice and that has allowed us to heal some injuries and re-energize our legs and minds. I really expect us to finish real strong."
The Storm, which last season finished 18-21-2 overall and fourth (8-10-2, 18) in the league, had the time to heal thanks to the cancellation of a pair of non-league games over the holiday break.
Northeast, which is 14-11-2 overall, has been led in scoring by Bexley sophomore Taylor Farthing and New Albany junior Ronnie Davies.
Farthing had a team-high 27 goals, including five on power plays, and 13 assists for 40 points through 26 games.
"Taylor is a natural," Kieta said. "He skates well and puts the puck in the net. He has speed, shiftiness and is talented with the stick. Plus, he has a knack for finding the scoring lanes. He's been our offensive catalyst and he has good linemates in Matt Maldovan and Tony Black."
Farthing is competing in a high school league for the first time, having played travel hockey previously.
"I think the high school level is a lot more competitive and a higher intensity," he said. "What I like about it is competing against older players. In travel, there are age groups. You're not facing the bigger, older guys like you do here."
Davies shared the team lead in assists (17) with junior Tyler Gischel and had 26 points through 26 games.
"Ronnie moved here from Colorado and he has been a great fit," Kieta said. "He's really smart and takes care of the puck. Plus, he's very versatile and can do many things for us."
Davies said there isn't much difference between hockey here and in Colorado.
"There are obviously many more teams in Colorado, but the pace of the game is the same. Because there are more teams, there also is more depth," he said. "But I think this is a great team with a lot of potential. I'll do anything they ask me to do. I shift back and forth from offense to defense and I have some great wingers on my line in Damon Bass and Noah Mynes."
Also totaling at least 20 points for the Storm through 26 games were Maldovan (25), Gischel (23), Sean Eden (21), Black (21), Bass (20) and Travis Eden (20).
Sean Eden (114) and Travis Eden (65) led the team in hits.
Sophomores Andrew Pettenski and Jesse Nusbaum, a New Albany student, have been standouts at goaltender, according to Kieta.
"Both have been outstanding back there and they give us a chance in every game," he said. "Both are at or just above 90 percent in saves.