Upper Arlington High School hockey coach Jay Graham knew his team would relish a 12-day break from games after playing nine in a 16-day stretch.
He just didn't know how much the Golden Bears would need the rest.
UA went 3-5-1 in that stretch, capped by being outscored 8-2 in three losses in as many days to Dublin Jerome (2-1 on Jan. 11), Dublin Coffman (3-1 on Jan. 12) and Olentangy Liberty (3-0 on Jan. 13).
"We're in a goal-scoring slump, big-time, and I think the best thing to do when that happens is get the heck away from the rink for a while," Graham said. "We're trying to work on as many scoring skills as we can, but it's been difficult and it's frustrating for a young team to go through a drought like we are. The kids are still working hard, but sometimes the harder you try, the less success you get when it comes to scoring."
The Bears, who are 12-9-1 overall heading into a game against Troy on Friday, Jan. 25, have scored seven goals in the past six games since defeating Olentangy 8-0 on Dec. 29. On Jan. 6, UA outshot Thomas Worthington 57-18 but managed only a 2-all tie.
"If we could finish, we can hang with anybody," Graham said. "It was 1-0 against Liberty going into the third period and they got a couple cheapies. It's not to diminish the competition. But ... the issue is more the onus is on us in terms of being able to finish. Teams have played us well."
Freshman forward Danny Logan scored against Jerome and senior forward Derrick Galantowicz scored against Coffman. Senior goaltender Richard Griffin made 30 saves against the Celtics and 28 against Liberty.
Griffin has started 16 games in goal and sophomore goalie Cole Abbott started the other six, a scenario reminiscent of last season when Griffin split time in goal with 2012 graduates Geoff Chidester and Greg Doub.
Abbott had a season-high 31 saves in a 6-4 win over Worthington Kilbourne on Dec. 15.
"The movement (of opposing players) is a challenge. That's why I love playing varsity so much," Abbott said. "I think my strongest skill is my patience. I'm very poised. I think I have good lateral movement. Richard and I might be just about equal in certain areas and one of us is better than the other in other things."
Abbott thinks the rotation might help Griffin more as the regular season winds down. The Bears, who resume Capital Hockey Conference play on Saturday, Jan. 26, against DeSales, have four games remaining before the Blue Jackets Cup, which begins Feb. 8.
Gymnasts not perfect, but getting closer
Even though no members of the gymnastics team placed in the top three in their events in the Wolfpack Invitational on Jan. 19 at Worthington Kilbourne, coach Abigail Schmidt found reasons to beam.
The Bears scored 127.05 points to place seventh in the 13-team meet behind champion Findlay (139.925).
"We had tried to up difficulties for all four events for all of our girls and we made zero errors on our new events," Schmidt said. "This was definitely our best meet of the year."
Further increasing the degree of difficulty for UA has been the absence of sophomore Emily Jones and freshman Alyssa Cooper to back injuries. Schmidt hopes the two will be back by the end of this month.
Not having Jones and Cooper has put more onus on sophomore Mary Kate Keethler to score points, and there has been a trickle-down effect to the rest of the team.
"Normally, Alyssa and Emily are in all four events, so all the girls had to step up more," Schmidt said. "Last year was my first year with the team, so when I worked with them I protected the talent they already had. This year, it's great to see we're ready to take the next step."
Swimming, tennis coaches honored
Boys swimming and diving coach Mike de Bear recently was named 2012 Mideast Sectional Coach of the Year for his sport by the National Federation of High Schools, which also selected boys tennis coach Amos Allison as its Coach of the Year in Ohio.
De Bear, who is in his third season at UA, guided the Bears to a runner-up finish in the Division I state meet last season behind champion Cincinnati St. Xavier. UA was represented in the state finals in every event except diving, with Joey Long winning state titles in the 200-yard freestyle (1 minute, 38.64 seconds) and 500 free (program-record 4:29.82).
Allison, who will be in his eighth season this spring, led the Bears to their second Ohio Tennis Coaches Association state championship in three years last spring. UA, which beat Springboro 3-0 in the final, also has won 30 consecutive league titles.