Newark club hockey team goalie Andrew Clark remembers firsthand the 2005-06 season, when a freshman-laden Generals team struggled to a record of 11-32-7.

Newark club hockey team goalie Andrew Clark remembers firsthand the 2005-06 season, when a freshman-laden Generals team struggled to a record of 11-32-7.

He also knows how much work went into getting the program turned around, and he knows all the effort only made last Sunday's 3-1 win over PRPC in the Blue Jackets Cup final that much sweeter.

"I'm kind of speechless because we've tried so hard from that year when a lot of us guys made it on the varsity team," Clark said.

Coach Don Jennings, who took over the Generals in 2004, said the progress for this senior class has been steady and consistent.

"Each year, of course, they've gotten bigger and stronger and worked themselves into a position to win this cup," Jennings said.

Although the Generals once were the bottom-dwellers of the Greater Columbus High School Club Hockey League, they entered the Blue Jackets Cup not as underdogs, but as favorites. The Generals finished atop the league standings during the regular season at 13-5-2, followed by PRPC (10-4-6), Hilliard/Southwest (9-9-2), Northeast (6-10-4), Westerville (7-11-2) and Athens (7-13).

For virtually the entire Blue Jackets Cup, the higher seeds advanced as expected. Newark reached the final by beating Northeast 3-2 in a quarterfinal last Friday and PRPC 4-3 last Saturday. PRPC, which beat Hilliard/Southwest 5-2 in its quarterfinal last Friday, made it to the final by winning the consolation bracket with a 2-1 win over Northeast last Sunday. The Prowlers have reached the final in six of seven years since the Blue Jackets Cup started in 2003.

Newark, PRPC, Northeast and Hilliard/Southwest will compete at the Buckeye Cup state tournament March 6-8 in Columbus.

Athens became the first team from the GCHSCHL to win the state title last season, which has other central Ohio teams believing they can contend for a title.

"I think it's going to come down to this matchup against these Cincinnati teams," Newark forward Joe Parini said. "We know we can beat every team out of Cleveland, we've proven that (during regular-season games). We've beaten every team coming out of here. It will just be seeing what these Cincinnati teams are like. I guarantee if we play hard hockey, just play our game, we're going to be successful."

In the final, Newark controlled the action for much of the game, and it took a 1-0 lead early in the first period when Nick Kohl put a rebound past Prowlers goalie Erik Heinmiller. Newark boosted the lead to 2-0 early in the second period when Sol Parini scored on a feed from Drew Link.

PRPC cut the lead to 2-1 midway through the second period on a wraparound goal by Matt Thompson, and it seemed to control the action for the remainder of the period. In the third period, the Prowlers had several scoring chances, but Clark proved to be up to the task in goal.

Newark added a third goal when Keenan McCloud scored on an empty net with just less than a minute left.

"We knew that we could match up well against PRPC," Jennings said. "We knew that we had a really good game plan as to how to approach covering some of their better players. They have a couple of the best players in the league on that team, so we obviously knew we had to match up with those guys and control them as much as we could."