With hopes of winning a third consecutive regular-season league championship all but dashed, the Olentangy Liberty High School hockey team will look for some late-season magic with an eye on defending its Blue Jackets Cup title.

With hopes of winning a third consecutive regular-season league championship all but dashed, the Olentangy Liberty High School hockey team will look for some late-season magic with an eye on defending its Blue Jackets Cup title.

The Patriots lost to Capital Hockey Conference-Red Division leader Dublin Jerome 5-2 on Jan. 29 at Chiller Dublin. The setback dropped Liberty seven points behind the Celtics (12-1-1-1, 26 points) with four games to play, beginning Feb. 1 against Orange.

Liberty was 9-3-1 with 19 points in the CHC. It would have to win out and have the Celtics lose their final two contests to win the title.

"(The Celtics) deserved to win the way they played," said coach Jack Hoogeveen, whose team was 21-6-3 overall before Feb. 1 and 10th in last week's state poll behind top-ranked Cleveland St. Ignatius. "They have good players and just came out and beat us."

The Patriots were tied with the Celtics atop last week's district poll ahead of third-place Upper Arlington.

Jerome dominated play on Jan. 29.

The Celtics led 1-0 after one period and quickly made it 2-0 before Christopher Bergamesca scored off an assist from Brock Rumbaugh to cut the deficit to one. Jerome scored three consecutive goals to put the game out of reach.

Nick Ramsey scored Liberty's other goal with assists from Rumbaugh and Nick Kouskouris.

"We need to play a complete game," Hoogeveen said. "When we made it 2-1 in the second period we had a chance, but they came right back and scored. We couldn't catch up from there."

A night earlier, the Patriots beat Dublin Coffman 5-2 as Noah Allmaras, Bergamesca, Jack Gainor, Ethan Hollingsworth and Ramsey all scored.

"We came in focused against Coffman and we stayed focused going into the second period," Allmaras said. "A lot of times, we play hard in the first period and then slow down in the second period, like we think we have the game won. We have to stay focused."

On Jan. 16, Liberty defeated Jerome 3-0 in the White Division championship of the Thomas Worthington MLK Tournament, but lost to the Celtics 4-2 five days later in league play.

The Patriots have struggled since winning the Thomas tournament, going 2-3-1 before Feb. 1. They had been unbeaten in league play before that stretch.

Coffman (8-6-1) and Cincinnati Moeller (7-4-1-2) were tied for third with 17 points in the Red Division with St. Charles (8-6, 16 points) one point back in fifth.

"We definitely need to get healthy and our defense needs to play a little stronger," Hoogeveen said. "We need a more consistent game overall. It really comes and goes because we played great defensively against Coffman (on Jan. 28) and then didn't play so well against Jerome."

Bergamesca (20 goals, 33 assists) led the Patriots in points after 30 games, followed by Rumbaugh (21, 31), Hollingsworth (16, 15), Ramsey (15-8), Gainor (10, 10), Collins McDonald (8, 9), Allmaras (7, 5) Cole Bumpass (5, 7) and Kyle Horner (4, 7).

The Blue Jackets Cup will be Feb. 9-12 at various Chiller facilities. The top four teams from the Red Division qualify with the top three from the White Division and the winner of the Blue Division.

Last season, Liberty won its first Blue Jackets Cup, beating Coffman 3-2 in the championship game. The Patriots also won their first district championship, defeating Jerome 3-2 in overtime to advance to a state semifinal, where they lost to Toledo St. Francis 9-4.

"We have kids who played well down the stretch last year," said Hoogeveen, whose team won 14 of 15 games entering last season's state semifinal. "They were part of the magic last year and will need to lead the way this year."

Allmaras, who was a part of that run last season, said his teammates have to adopt the same philosophy.

"The coaches always say that we have to go out and play every game like it was the seventh game of a series," Allmaras said. "We lost only one game in our last 15 before reaching state (last year), so we have to pick up our game if we expect to do that again."