The Westerville club hockey team had one its most successful seasons a year ago, and that success appears to have carried over to this season.
The Warcats are 13-8 overall after going 1-3 in the Midwest Thanksgiving Classic held Nov. 23-25 at Chiller North. They lost to St. Charles 6-0 on Nov. 23 and lost to Carmel (Ind.) 7-1 and beat Burlington (Ontario) Robert Bateman 5-0 on Nov. 24 before losing to Hilliard 7-2 on Nov. 25.
Last season, Westerville finished 25-15-5 overall, placed third in the Greater Columbus High School Club Hockey League and advanced to a semifinal in the Buckeye Cup state tournament before losing to eventual champion Newark 5-2.
The Warcats won their first nine games this season. The start included going 5-0 in the Rock & Roll Cup Tournament held Oct. 19-21 in Cleveland, with Westerville beating the Toronto Hillcrest Canadiens 3-2 in the final.
Goaltender Tyler Plas, a Westerville Central High School junior, was named tournament MVP after going 5-0 with a 1.80 goals-against average.
Central junior forward Jacob English led all scorers with six goals and seven assists and Central junior forward Tyler Ramsey added four goals and four assists.
"The kids have bought into what we're coaching and we've improved our record each year that I've been here," fourth-year coach Brandon Fackey said. "We established a strong winning culture by making a good run in the state tournament last year, and the older kids on our team have helped maintain that culture this season. This is the most complete early team and best start that we've ever had, and the focus and camaraderie of our kids is the best it's been."
Fackey was pleased with his team's performance in the Midwest Thanksgiving Classic even though it won only one of its four games.
"(Last) weekend is the best competition we've ever faced in my four-year tenure here," he said.
The Warcats are 4-3 in the GCHSCHL and return to league play Saturday, Dec. 1, against PRPC at Chiller Easton.
They beat PRPC 5-1 on Oct. 12, Hilliard 2-1 on Oct. 27 and 4-3 on Nov. 2 and Athens 7-2 on Nov. 4 and lost to Northeast 3-2 on Oct. 2, Newark 4-0 on Nov. 9 and PRPC 2-1 on Nov. 17.
In the Nov. 2 game against Hilliard, Central junior forward Christopher Spies scored three goals, including the winner with less than a second left.
"Both our wins over Hilliard were pretty exciting because we hadn't beaten them the past three years," Spies said. "It was so exciting to score late to beat Hilliard. I've never had a game like that before."
Westerville went 11-8-1 (23 points) in the GCHSCHL last season to finish behind Hilliard (17-1-2, 36) and Newark (13-4-3, 29) and ahead of Northeast (8-10-2, 18), PRPC (6-12-2, 14) and Athens (0-20, 0).
The Warcats went 2-2 in the Blue Jackets Cup, but rebounded to go 2-0-1 in pool play in the state tournament to reach a state semifinal.
Westerville defeated Butler County 5-1 and North Royalton 7-2 and tied eventual state runner-up Jackson at 3 in pool play before losing to Newark, which defeated Jackson 3-2 in the final.
"Hilliard has dominated us in the past, so (beating) Hilliard (Oct. 27 and Nov. 2) gives me hope that we can win our league," Fackey said. "We also want to get back to the state tournament so we can win it."
The Warcats have four captains in English, Ramsey, South senior defenseman Kyle Arens and North senior forward Austin Siemer.
Also playing forward are Central senior Nicholas Brennan, Central juniors Tyler Ahearn, Charlie Williams and Edward Woods, North junior Cody Knight and North freshman Nick Orioli.
The other defensemen are Marys-ville senior Sean McNally, Oakstone Academy sophomore Brendan Kremer, South sophomore Vincent Murdock and North junior Andrew Simmerman.
Jonathan Alder freshman Eric Wilhelm is the backup goalie.
"Our top line scored most of our goals last year, but we've balanced our lines and all of them are scoring evenly for us now," Spies said.