Chances are that the Olentangy Liberty High School hockey team wasn't thinking about its accomplishments this season moments after its 2-1 overtime loss to Oxford Talawanda in the second round of the district tournament last Sunday in the Dispatch Ice Haus.

Chances are that the Olentangy Liberty High School hockey team wasn't thinking about its accomplishments this season moments after its 2-1 overtime loss to Oxford Talawanda in the second round of the district tournament last Sunday in the Dispatch Ice Haus.

The loss was tough to accept, given that the Patriots were seeded fifth and Talawanda was not seeded in the top 12.

But Liberty produced a winning season, finishing 16-14-1 overall, and captured its first Capital Hockey Conference title despite having to insert young players into its lineup as replacements for its top four scorers from a year ago who were lost to graduation.

"This year, we had a lot of young guys with a combined 10 sophomores and freshmen," third-year coach Jack Hoogeveen said. "The mix of young kids with the veteran players made it a nice year to coach."

Liberty was 11-1 (22 points) in the CHC, edging Cincinnati Moeller (10-2-1, 21 points) for the league championship.

The Patriots did not play their league finale against Watterson because of bad weather. Several other teams did not play all 13 league games because of weather-related cancellations.

Dublin Coffman finished third (10-2, 20), followed by St. Charles (9-4, 18), Dublin Jerome (8-2-1, 17), Olentangy Orange (7-5-0-1, 15), Gahanna (7-5, 14), Upper Arlington (6-4-1-1, 14), Thomas Worthington (5-5-1-1, 12), Olentangy (5-7-0-1, 11), Worthington Kilbourne (3-9, 6), DeSales (1-10-1, 3), Dublin Scioto (1-11-1, 3) and Watterson (0-12, 0).

"We went in with a goal of being in the top three in the league and, with a Herculean effort, we were able to get to the No. 1 position," Hoogeveen said.

"It was very surprising to be able to (win the CHC) because we lost (our top four scorers)," freshman forward Noah Allmaras said. "Filling in for them was tough, but we were able to win the title."

Liberty, which completed its third varsity season, beat Coffman 2-0 on Jan. 31 in a key CHC contest. The Patriots won only one of their final five, scoring a total of four goals in those contests.

"When we beat Coffman, there was a lot of emotion," Hoogeveen said. "The place was packed with 200 people, it was loud and we couldn't get that emotion back."

Liberty lost its league finale to Moeller 3-1 on Feb. 7 before beating Orange 2-1 in the opening round of the Blue Jackets Cup on Feb. 11. The Patriots were shut out in their next two games in the Blue Jackets Cup, falling 3-0 to Jerome on Feb. 12 and 2-0 to Coffman on Feb. 14.

Then, after an opening-round bye in the district tournament, Liberty fell to Talawanda.

"We played well (against Talawanda), and I know it's clich, but it's terrible that someone had to lose this game the way both teams played," Hoogeveen said. "They had three really skilled players that we had to keep our eye on. One of them was No. 17 (Eric Humfleet), who scored the game-winning goal. They played two lines the whole game and we tried to go with three and we did that until overtime and then we went back to two."

Senior forward Nick Zanetos, who scored the lone goal against Talawanda, led the team with 17 goals. Senior forward Ben Saylor had 15 goals and 15 assists and senior goaltender Nick Kerr, who had 22 saves against Talawanda, had an .892 save percentage. Other seniors were defender Logan Singleton and forward Joel Standley.

"They were a good group of seniors who really helped bring the younger kids along," Hooge-veen said.

Juniors expected to return are defensemen Keaton Allmaras, Anthony Bergamesca and Robert Koehler, goalie Bryan Finneran and forward Jimmy Ruska.

Also eligible to be back are sophomores Mitch Helton (forward), Nick Ramsey (forward), Reed Slinger (forward) and Pete Leonetti (defenseman) and freshmen Noah Allmaras (forward), Drew Ash (forward), Ethan Hollingsworth (forward) and Michael Oja (forward) and Gus Olmstead (defenseman).

Ruska scored 14 goals.

"We learned that hard work really pays off," Noah Allmaras said. "We weren't always the most skilled team, but we worked hard to get better."

•Olentangy defeated Kettering Alter 6-3 last Saturday in the first round of the district tournament before falling to third-seeded Moeller 7-2 last Sunday in a second-round game. The Braves finished 9-17 overall.

•Orange lost to Talawanda 4-3 last Saturday in the first round of the district tournament. The Pioneers finished 13-12-1 overall.

At a glance

LIBERTY

•Record: 16-14-1 overall, 11-1 (first) in CHC

•Seniors lost: Nick Kerr, Ben Saylor, Logan Singleton, Joel Standley and Nick Zanetos

•Key returnees: Keaton Allmaras, Noah Allmaras, Anthony Berga-mesca, Bryan Finneran, Mitch Helton, Ethan Hollingsworth, Marshall Oja, Jimmy Ruska and Reed Slinger