After opening with eight consecutive victories and winning 11 of its first 12 games, the Westerville club hockey team hit a rut, going 2-6 against strong competition in its next eight games.
The Warcats absorbed some lopsided losses during that stretch, as they fell to Newark 4-0 in a Greater Columbus High School Club Hockey League game Nov. 9 and lost to St. Charles 6-0, Carmel (Ind.) 7-1 and Hilliard 7-2 in the Midwest Thanksgiving Classic held Nov. 23-25 at Chiller North.
Westerville showed its fortitude by bouncing back to win four of its next six games.
“We had a fast start and I think we started to cruise a little bit after that,” junior forward Jacob English said. “Then we played some better competition, including the No. 1 team from Indiana, and we took some bumps and bruises. Those losses showed our team what our standard has to be, and we started working harder and paying more attention in practice. Ever since then, we’ve started picking up our intensity again. And if we didn’t lose those games, I don’t think we’d be working this hard and beating some of the teams we’ve been beating lately.”
The Warcats lost to Northeast 3-2 on Oct. 26 but defeated the Storm 7-0 on Dec. 8. Both games were league contests.
“We wanted to make a statement in our rematch against Northeast that we’re the team to beat in our league,” English said. “They caught us by surprise when they beat us earlier in the year, but we’ve been playing much better than we were the first time we played them.”
Westerville fell short of avenging its league loss to Newark, as it lost 1-0 in the rematch Dec. 13. English, who is the Warcats’ leading scorer, was out of the lineup that game because of a concussion.
Westerville will face Newark again Jan. 10 at Lou and Gib Ice Arena and Feb. 8 at Chiller Easton.
“We’ve learned from our mistakes and now we’ve got momentum on our side again,” senior defenseman Kyle Arens said. “We’re keeping positive attitudes, moving the puck well and out-working teams.
“We were a lot closer the second time against Newark. It’s very hard to win at their place because they bring a lot of fans and it’s loud. We’re looking forward to playing them again, especially when it’s back here in Columbus.”
English was leading the team in scoring through 25 games with 42 points (18 goals, 24 assists), followed by forward Christopher Spies with 31 (19 goals, 12 assists), forward Tyler Ramsey with 26 (12 goals, 14 assists), defensemen Vincent Murdock (9 goals, 11 assists) and Brendan Kremer (6 goals, 14 assists) with 20 and forward Nick Orioli with 18 (10 goals, 8 assists).
The defense has been led by Arens (plus-20 rating), Murdock (plus-18) and Kremer (plus-12). Goaltender Tyler Plas was 12-9 with a 2.67 goals-against average and an 87.4 save percentage.
“Our goaltender is having a very good season so far,” English said. “Christopher Spies is finding his identity and becoming one of our best players. We’ve played pretty well on offense and defense. The key for us is playing hard on our forecheck, because that’s our strength. When we forecheck hard, we get the momentum going and frazzle our opponents.”