The Olentangy Liberty High School hockey team began its quest to defend its first district championship on Feb. 19 by routing Cincinnati Sycamore 10-0 in the first round.

The Olentangy Liberty High School hockey team began its quest to defend its first district championship on Feb. 19 by routing Cincinnati Sycamore 10-0 in the first round.

Coach Jack Hoogeveen knows from firsthand experience that the path to the district final will get much more difficult for his squad this weekend.

The second-seeded Patriots will face Olentangy in a quarterfinal on Saturday, Feb. 25, at the OhioHealth Ice Haus. The winner will play fourth-seeded Olentangy Orange or fifth-seeded Cincinnati Moeller in a semifinal on Sunday, Feb. 26, at the Ice Haus.

Liberty defeated Olentangy 8-0 on Feb. 3, but Hoogeveen is aware that the Braves are peaking in the postseason.

Olentangy opened the district tournament Feb. 18 with a 5-4 double overtime victory over Cincinnati St. Xavier before upsetting seventh-seeded Troy 4-3 on Feb. 19 to improve to 12-20.

"We beat Olentangy once already, but we'll have to give it a good effort because they have some good players and they're playing their best hockey right now," said Hoogeveen, whose squad is 27-8-3. "And it will only get tougher in the next round, because Orange and Moeller have good teams and they've both played us tough this season."

Orange and Moeller will meet in a quarterfinal Saturday, Feb. 25, at the Ice Haus.

Moeller beat Worthington Kilbourne 7-1 on Feb. 19 to improve to 19-14-2. That same day, Orange defeated Oxford Talawanda 4-3 to improve to 31-8.

Orange split with Moeller during the regular season, losing 6-0 on Feb. 3 and winning 5-4 in overtime on Feb. 9. The Pioneers also split with Liberty during the regular season, winning 7-3 on Feb. 1 and losing 4-2 on Feb. 10.

Liberty is led by Chris Bergamesca (31 goals, 42 assists), Brock Rumbaugh (26 goals, 39 assists), Ethan Hollingsworth (24 goals, 20 assists), Nick Ramsey (16 goals, 11 assists) and Collins McDonald (11 goals, 15 assists). The Patriots' No. 1 goaltender is Eddie Arcy, who has 18 wins and a 1.99 goals-against average.

In 17 Capital Hockey Conference games, Orange was led in scoring by Jake Shepherd (15 goals, 18 assists), Dar Faroughi (12 goals, 15 assists), Jake Potts (12 assists) and Nick Murley (11 goals).

Leading Olentangy in scoring in league games were Josh Stein (14 goals, 14 assists) and Woody Wallace (12 goals, 7 assists).

"Orange has steady goaltending and their forwards have size and strength," Hoogeveen said. "We made a lot of defensive mistakes in the first game and they scored on odd-man rushes and breakaways. We tightened up our defense on them in the rematch and avenged our loss, so we'll need to play well defensively once again to beat Orange."

Liberty went 2-0-1 against Moeller during the regular season, winning 3-1 on Nov. 26 and 3-1 on Dec. 31 and tying Moeller at 3 on Jan. 27.

"Moeller has one very good forward line, and they have a good goaltender and defensemen who can really move the puck," Hoogeveen said. "We need to counterattack those teams' advantages with our skill and speed."

Third-seeded Upper Arlington opened district with a 4-3 win over Centerville on Feb. 18, as Patrick Goth scored two goals, including the winner with less than four minutes remaining.

Matthew Beebe, Goth and Brent Savan each scored to help the Golden Bears build a 3-0 lead before Centerville rallied to score three consecutive goals within the final 10 minutes of the third period.

"The game was pretty one-sided for the most part, but then we gave up some goals we shouldn't have given up," said UA coach Jay Graham, whose squad is 24-12-3. "The first tournament game is always the most difficult to win. Just look at St. Charles. They were up 4-1 over Springboro with 10 minutes to go and ended up losing (5-4 in overtime on Feb. 18)."

The Bears will play sixth-seeded Dublin Coffman in a quarterfinal on Saturday, Feb. 25, at the Ice Haus, with the winner facing top-seeded Dublin Jerome or Springboro in a semifinal on Sunday, Feb. 26.

UA went 3-0 against Coffman during the regular season, winning 5-3 on Dec. 29, 2-0 on Dec. 30 and 3-2 in triple overtime on Feb. 9. But the Bears went 1-2 against Jerome, losing 3-0 on Dec. 8, winning 5-2 on Jan. 7 and losing 5-2 on Feb. 10.

Coffman, which is 15-15-1, features the forward line of Kevin Putnam, Gunner Gruehl and Kyle Marcinick, a skilled defenseman in Eric Gute and a steady goaltender in Kyle Burich.

In league games, Putnam had a CHC-Red Division-leading 24 goals and 15 assists, Gruehl had 15 goals, Marcinick had 15 goals and 12 assists, Gute had nine assists and Burich had a .937 save percentage.

UA had balanced scoring in league play, as Brian Helscel had 11 goals and nine assists, followed by Goth (10 goals), Beebe (9 goals, 13 assists), Max Collins (8 goals), Jack Whitman (6 goals, 12 assists) and K.C. Kessler (10 assists).

"We've had Coffman's number this season, but we'll certainly need to play well to beat them a fourth time," Graham said. "And we beat Jerome 5-2, so we feel real good about our district matchups.

"The key for us is we need to take fewer penalties so we can continue to limit other teams' scoring chances. And we need to keep scoring four or more goals a game because we've had a hard time putting pucks in the net at times this season."

Jerome, which beat Springboro 3-1 on Jan. 14, opened district on Feb. 18 with an 8-1 win over Gahanna as John Henry Fischer scored four goals.

The Celtics, who are 28-9-1, have gone 2-0-1 against Coffman this season, winning 5-3 on Nov. 27, tying at 1 on Jan. 22 and winning 3-2 on Jan. 27.