Brad Bloomberg feels good about his first season as head coach of the Westerville club hockey team.
The Warcats finished 24-8-11 overall and captured the Greater Columbus High School Club Hockey League championship.
"I can't say for sure that this was the best season our team has ever had, but it's definitely the best season we've had in the seven years I've been a part of the program," said Bloomberg, who was an assistant coach the previous six seasons. "We won a lot of games and this is the first time we've won our league, so it's definitely a big step forward for our team."
Westerville went 12-1-7 (31 points) in the six-team GCHSCHL, finishing ahead of Northeast (28, 11-3-6), Newark (23, 9-6-5), Hilliard (22, 7-5-8), PHA (16, 6-10-4) and Athens (0, 0-20).
The Warcats' only league loss during the regular season came against Newark, 4-1 on Jan. 5. In their other three league games against Newark, they won 4-3 on Nov. 21 and tied the Generals at 2 on Nov. 3 and tied them at 1 on Jan. 23.
Westerville went 2-0-2 against Northeast in GCHSCHL play during the regular season, winning 4-3 on both Dec. 8 and Feb. 1 and tying the Storm at 2 on Nov. 15 and at 6 on Feb. 15.
"We only had one league loss, and that's a good accomplishment because there were some good teams in our league, like Northeast," senior forward Christopher Spies said. "It's sweet to know that we're the first Westerville team to win our league."
Westerville went 1-2 in the GCHSCHL tournament, the Blue Jackets Cup. It defeated Hilliard 6-3 on Feb. 21 before losing to Northeast 4-0 on Feb. 22 and Newark 4-2 on Feb. 23.
"That performance was a little disappointing because we went into the tournament too tight and weren't as relaxed as we needed to be," Bloomberg said.
By finishing in the top four of the GCHSCHL, Westerville qualified for the 12-team state tournament, the Buckeye Cup, held March 7-9 at Gilmour Academy Ice Complex in Gates Mills, where it went 2-1-1.
The Warcats opened the Buckeye Cup with an 8-2 win over Cincinnati Indian Hill. They then tied eventual state champion Massillon Jackson at 2 and beat Northern Kentucky 12-3 before losing to North Royalton 2-1 in a shootout in a semifinal.
Jackson beat North Royalton 1-0 in the final.
"We were much looser entering the state tournament and we played really well in pool play to reach a semifinal," Bloomberg said. "I thought we played a better game than (North Royalton) in the semifinal, but we just couldn't get that second goal we needed to beat them. I'm very happy to say that we played our best hockey in the state tournament."
The Warcats are losing 10 seniors, including their top five scorers in forwards Jacob English (45 goals, 43 assists), Christopher Spies (50 goals, 35 assists), Edward Woods (23 goals, 21 assists), Tyler Ramsey (14 goals, 25 assists) and Cody Knight (20 goals, 17 assists).
Westerville also is losing its No. 1 goaltender in Tyler Plas, who went 19-6-6 with a 2.53 goals-against average and an .895 save percentage.
Amon those expected to return are freshman goalie Parker Rodgers (5-2-5, 3.14 GAA, .863 save percentage), junior defensemen Vincent Murdock (7 goals, 19 assists, plus-28) and Brendan Kremer (6 goals, 18 assists) and sophomore defenseman Jacob Hardy (2 goals, 10 assists, plus-22).
"Our seniors matured and they often exceeded our expectations with their play," Bloomberg said. "We have the expectation to make it right back to the state tournament next year, but we will have a lot of new faces on our team, so it's just going to be a matter of how well our veterans help our younger players fit into our system."