Unfortunately for senior defenseman Jordan Katz and his teammates on the PRPC club hockey team, the way their 8-3 loss to Westerville on Jan. 13 unfolded was all too familiar.
The Ice Prowlers led 3-2 after two periods before getting outscored 6-0 in the third period to drop to 13-20 overall and 5-15 in the Greater Columbus High School Club Hockey League.
"We've played well and had a chance to beat almost every team we've faced, but we're just not finishing our games the way we need to," Katz said. "We'll be tied or ahead, and then we'll have a five- to 10-minute letdown where we lose the game. Against Westerville, we were in a position to win the game, but we let penalties get to us and let the game slip away.
"We need to finish these games by playing as a team, passing the puck and staying out of the penalty box."
With five league games remaining, PRPC's top priority is finishing in the top four of the GCHSCHL standings to qualify for the Buckeye Cup state tournament.
The Prowlers are fifth in the league with 10 points, behind Hilliard (11-3-1, 23 points), Westerville (11-5, 22), Newark (7-2-3, 17) and Northeast (5-7-2, 12) and ahead of Athens (0-12, 0).
First-year coach Brenton Blaskie believes his team's game against Northeast on Feb. 2 at OhioHealth Ice Haus will determine the league's final state-qualifying berth.
"That's the big game that's going to decide who makes the playoffs," he said. "That's been apparent for a long time because neither of us is going to catch the top three teams in the standings or drop below fifth place."
PRPC is 2-1 against Northeast this season, winning 3-2 on Oct. 20 and 7-4 on Dec. 7 and losing 3-1 on Nov. 18.
Northeast often employs an umbrella-shaped formation on the power play, with three players just inside the offensive zone and two players near the goal crease, and the Storm scored a power-play goal and had several quality power-play chances in their win over the Prowlers.
PRPC switched to a diamond-shaped penalty-kill formation in its next meeting with Northeast and did not allow any power play goals.
"Northeast runs a different power play than any other team in our league and we had trouble defending against it when they beat us," Blaskie said. "Most teams keep two players high and put three guys down low on their power play, but they run an umbrella so we need to be prepared to change our penalty kill depending on what they're using."
The Prowlers will compete in a 112-team tournament this weekend in Ann Arbor, Mich., playing two games on Saturday, Jan. 19, one on Sunday, Jan. 20, and one on Monday, Jan. 21.
"We don't know who we're going to play yet, but we're expecting some fast-paced hockey because there are going to be a lot of travel A teams competing in the tournament," Katz said. "It should be a lot of fun."
Forward Owen Mayhew is leading PRPC in scoring with 25 goals and nine assists, followed by forward Kaleb Coonfare (10 goals, 22 assists), forward Hayden Ballog (19 goals, 12 assists), forward Brett Chafin (12 goals, 7 assists), defenseman Michael Matsanoff (3 goals, 15 assists), forward Richard Sklenar (6 goals, 11 assists), forward Hunter Morgan (12 goals, 4 assists) and defenseman Brandon Pfeiffer (6 goals, 9 assists).
"Kaleb is our captain and he never takes a shift off," Blaskie said. "He throws his body around and leads us in hits. Michael Matsanoff is our assistant captain and he matches up against the other team's top line every game.
"(Forward) Greg Bowers has shut down some of the other team's top guys and has done well killing penalties. (Defenseman) Will VanHoose and (forward Alex) Yarish have played really well recently. And our goaltenders (Adam Collins and Willie Dunham) have kept us in games, even when we've been outplayed."