For the first time in four years, a Greater Columbus High School Club Hockey League team did not play for the Buckeye Cup championship.
Northeast and Westerville both reached the semifinals of the state tournament March 9 at Gilmour Academy Ice Complex in Gates Mills but saw their seasons end against northeast Ohio teams. The Storm lost to eventual state champion Massillon Jackson 5-2 and the Warcats fell to North Royalton 2-1 in a shootout.
Jackson defeated North Royalton 1-0 in the championship game.
"Columbus versus Cleveland is pretty much the way it is now," Northeast coach Andrew Kieta said. "I'd say our areas are pretty close to equal in terms of talent. Their teams might be bigger, but the talent is there in our area, too. Sometimes you'll see a Cincinnati team sneak in there, but I can see it being Columbus against Cleveland (for the state championship) for a while to come."
Jackson qualified for the USA Hockey National Championships, which will take place March 26-30 in Omaha, Neb.
The 12-team Buckeye Cup tournament consisted of four teams from the GCHSCHL, four from the North Coast High School Club Hockey League and four from the Cincinnati High School Hockey League.
Columbus and Cleveland teams combined to take the top eight spots in the tournament.
Northeast went 2-0-1 in pool play, earning 12 points to enter the semifinals as the second seed. The Storm played Painesville Riverside to a scoreless tie March 7 and defeated Liberty Township Lakota East 6-1 and Cincinnati Indian Hill 5-3 on March 8 before falling to Jackson to finish 28-8-8.
Taylor Farthing and Jared Febb had two goals apiece against Lakota East and Indian Hill.
Against Jackson, Ronnie Davies scored a power-play goal in the first period and Jacob Peterson added a goal in the second for a 2-1 lead.
"We had a few defensive breakdowns, Jackson jumped on those and they went in front to stay," Kieta said. "We weren't able to bounce back again."
Westerville also went 2-0-1 in pool play, earning 11.5 points. The Warcats, who finished 24-8-10, beat Indian Hill 8-2 on March 7 and Northern Kentucky 12-3 on March 8. Sandwiched between those victories was a 2-all tie against Jackson on March 8.
Vincent Murdock scored the Warcats' only goal against North Royalton.
North Royalton was seeded first (13) entering the semifinals and Jackson was third (11.5).
The other two GCHSCHL teams that competed in the state tournament were Hilliard, which went 0-1-2 (6) in pool play and finished seventh, and Newark, which went 0-2-1 (5.5) and finished eighth.
Hilliard lost to Medina 3-1 in the Buckeye Cup final last season, a year after Newark won the state title by beating Jackson 3-2. In 2011, Northeast defeated Newark 2-1 in an all-GCHSCHL state final.
Westerville won the GCHSCHL regular-season title this season with a 12-1-7 record (31 points), finishing ahead of Northeast (11-3-6, 28), Newark (9-6-5, 23), Hilliard (7-5-8, 22), PHA (6-10-4, 16) and Athens (0-20, 0).
Northeast won the league tournament, the Blue Jackets Cup, by defeating Newark 2-1 in triple overtime in the championship game Feb. 23 at Chiller North.