Upper Arlington High School hockey coach Jay Graham has seen his team play at a high level this season.

Upper Arlington High School hockey coach Jay Graham has seen his team play at a high level this season.

The problem for the Golden Bears is they often have stretches during games in which they don't play at that level, and that usually proves costly.

"We've done that quite a bit this year, where we've played two really good periods but have put ourselves behind the eight ball in one of the three periods," Graham said. "It seems to change which of the three periods it is.

"It's frustrating for the coaches and the players, too, because we've had a difficult time stringing three good periods together. When we do, we're very difficult to beat. We're playing well, but that one period is hurting us."

Perhaps no game emphasizes that point more than the Bears' 3-1 loss to Olentangy Liberty in a Capital Hockey Conference game on Jan. 21. UA trailed the Patriots 3-0 after the first period but raised its level of play over the final two periods.

"Tonight it was the first period," Graham said after the loss. "We put ourselves in a big hole early."

In the third period, the Bears got a goal from senior forward Matt Lewis but narrowly missed three other scoring chances. Two shots hit off the goal post and junior forward Sam Stephensen lost an edge and crashed into the boards before he could put the puck into an open net after skating around goaltender Eddie Arcy, who had left the crease to challenge Stephensen on a shorthanded breakaway.

"We definitely picked (our play) up a little bit (in the final two periods), but we came out flat and unfortunately that's been the story of our season," said senior defenseman David Whalen, one of the team's three captains. "We've had a lot of problems with consistency."

UA is running out of time to find a solution. It has only five CHC games remaining before the Blue Jackets Cup on Feb. 10-13 at the Dispatch Ice Haus.

The top eight teams in the CHC compete for the Blue Jackets Cup championship and the bottom six play in a consolation tournament. The Bears are 4-3-1 in the CHC and are in the hunt for a top-eight finish.

"We definitely need to pick it up," Whalen said. "We've got a couple of tough games and a couple of easier ones coming up. We definitely need to get more points, especially after the loss (to Liberty) and a couple other league games we lost earlier this season."

UA won CHC regular-season titles in 2004, '06 and '07 but has yet to win a Blue Jackets Cup championship since the tournament began in 2004. Graham, however, puts more emphasis on the district tournament, which begins the week after the Blue Jackets Cup.

"Our focus is more on getting ready for districts than anything else," Graham said.

"But our goal all along was to finish in the top four in the league and we still have the opportunity to do that. We have to win out our league games, which we feel we can do.

"We've got to put ourselves in a good position in the league here if we want to do anything in the Blue Jackets Cup."

UA is averaging 3.7 goals a game, a marked improvement from last season when the Bears averaged 2.2 goals, scored more than four goals only three times and were shut out 10 times in 39 games.

However, Graham believes his team can be better offensively.

"We need more pucks to the net," he said. "We've had difficult times finding the net, but there have been other times where we've flourished and (scored consistently)."

Senior forward Jack Sansbury leads the Bears through 27 games with 12 goals, followed by junior forwards Matthew Beebe and Brian Helscel with 11, senior forward Neil McKenzie and junior forward Max Collins with nine, and Lewis and sophomore forward Jack Whitman with seven.

SKATE FOR THE CURE - For the second consecutive season, UA will play Olentangy Orange in a contest that will support the fight against breast cancer.

The Bears and Pioneers will play a CHC game at 8:20 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 29, at the Dispatch Ice Haus, with all proceeds going to the Stefanie Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research. As was the case last year in the "Skate for the Cure" event, the teams will wear black-and-pink jerseys and socks.

Tickets are $5. Fans also can contribute to the cause by purchasing 50/50 raffle tickets and commemorative T-shirts as well as by participating in a silent auction and playing a chuck-a-puck game.

Last year's event raised more than $10,000, according to Upper Arlington Hockey Association president Tracy Beebe.

An Upper Arlington resident, Spielman, 42, died in November 2009 after a decade-long battle with breast cancer. She and her husband, former Ohio State and NFL linebacker Chris Spielman, became advocates for breast cancer detection and research, raising millions of dollars for research.

"It's a real special night for everybody," Graham said. "Everybody's been touched by breast cancer or cancer of some type. I lost my own father to prostate cancer 11 years ago, so (the event) holds a special place in my heart as far as trying to give back to the community as much as we can and show our program in a positive light."

The same day that UA plays Orange, the Bears' junior varsity will play Cincinnati St. Xavier at 5 p.m. at the Ice Haus in a game that also will benefit the Spielman fund.

AT A GLANCE

Below are the recent results and coming schedule for the Upper Arlington hockey team:

Dec. 22 - Defeated Oxford Talawanda 4-3

Dec. 27 - Lost to Hunting Valley University School 9-1 at Lakewood St. Edward Eagle Classic

Dec. 28 - Lost to Parma Heights Holy Name 6-0 and lost to Parma Padua 7-2 at Eagle Classic

Dec. 29 - Lost to Padua 5-0 at Eagle Classic

*Jan. 7 - Lost to St. Charles 3-2 (OT)

*Jan. 8 - Def. Gahanna 6-0

*Jan. 9 - Def. DeSales 6-1

Jan. 15 - Def. Olentangy Liberty 2-0 and lost to host Strongsville 5-0 at Walter Ehrnfelt Tournament

Jan. 16 - Tied Medina at 4 at Walter Ehrnfelt Tournament

Jan. 17 - Lost to Liberty 4-0 at Walter Ehrnfelt Tournament

*Jan. 21 - Lost to Liberty 3-1

*Jan. 22 - Def. Worthington Kilbourne 9-1

Jan. 23 - Def. Bloomington (Ind.) Blades 7-1

*Jan. 28 - Dublin Scioto at Dispatch Ice Haus

*Jan. 29 - Olentangy Orange at Dispatch Ice Haus

*Jan. 30 - Thomas Worthington at Chiller North

*Feb. 4 - Olentangy at Chiller Dublin

*Feb. 6 - Dublin Coffman at Dispatch Ice Haus

Feb. 10-13 - Blue Jackets Cup at Dispatch Ice Haus

Of note: The Bears are 11-13-3 overall and 4-3-1 in the CHC.

*CHC contest