Late in the third period against defending district champion Olentangy Liberty on Dec. 8 at Chiller Dublin, the Dublin Jerome High School hockey team found itself clinging to a one-goal lead and facing a 5-on-3 disadvantage.

The fact that the Celtics killed off the penalties and held on for a 3-2 win was an example of the strides they've made during the first month of the season.

After beating Cincinnati Moeller 4-0 on Dec. 15, Thomas Worthington 10-0 on Dec. 16 and Olentangy Orange 3-1 on Dec. 17, Jerome is 11-2-2 overall and 6-1 in the Capital Hockey Conference-Red Division.

The Celtics' only league loss came against St. Charles, 3-2 on Dec. 9 at Chiller Dublin.

"So far, so good," coach Pat Murphy said. "We've played pretty well a few times. We've been so-so at other times, but it's early in the season and we've got a bunch of new players. As long as we keep getting better week to week and we're headed in the right direction, come the end of January, we hope we're playing really well."

The Celtics continue CHC-Red action Saturday, Dec. 23, against Upper Arlington at Chiller Dublin.

Jerome has played Liberty three times, losing 3-2 in a shootout Dec. 2 and losing 3-0 on Dec. 3 in non-league games.

"If you want to win anything in Columbus, you've got to go through us, Liberty, St. Charles and UA," assistant coach Patrick Mayfield said. "Liberty's got two lines that are good."

Senior goaltender Harrison Graff is 8-1-1 to support a defensive unit that Murphy expected to be among the team's strengths this season.

Junior forward Trent Belli has been a key addition this winter after previously playing at the travel level. He has nine goals and 18 assists.

Ryan Jenkins, Chris Posacki and Brian Wheeler have been other key contributors, according to Murphy.

"(Belli is) excellent," Murphy said. "He's an ex-AAA player who's better at baseball than hockey, and that precludes him from (playing travel hockey). He's only a junior, (6-foot-4), about 215-pound center. We're really happy (to have him)."

New additions boost gymnastics team

Despite losing two of its top three all-around competitors, including a two-time state qualifier, the gymnastics team could have a deeper pool of talent to build around this season.

On Dec. 16 in the Hilliard Invitational at Davidson, the Celtics finished seventh (122.9) of 14 teams, behind champion Dresden Tri-Valley (131.15).

Freshman Izzy Willms, the sister of eighth-year coach Kristen Willms, and sophomore Grace Krouse are among a strong group of newcomers.

"I'm very excited for Jerome's prospects this year," said coach Willms, who also coaches Coffman and Scioto. "We've added a lot of talent this year, and if we can stay healthy and keep adding our upgraded skills throughout the season, I'm excited to see what we can accomplish. Our freshmen show a lot of promise and come from a club gymnastics background."

The only senior is Melina Mangini.

Junior Parker Sickels is a returnee who was one of three all-around competitors at district last year when Jerome finished 13th. The Celtics finished fourth (121.625) in last year's OCC-Cardinal Division meet behind champion Bradley (133.95) as Sickels placed fifth on vault (8.275) and ninth in the all-around (30.925).

Junior Melissa Radey and her sister, sophomore Rachel Radey, are move-ins from Canada who previously participated in competitive gymnastics, according to coach Willms.

Freshman Maddy Lucas is another athlete who coach Willms is high on.

Others on the team are sophomores Sammie Fowler and Sydney White and freshman Grace Galli. Fowler is out with an injury but could return by the end of January, coach Willms said.

Izzy Willms had the team's best all-around score (32.225) in the Hilliard Invitational.

"Maddy and Izzy both competed in club gymnastics last year," coach Willms said. "Izzy is my little sister, which creates a fun dynamic in the gym. ... Our sophomores look phenomenal this year. I'd love to see some of these girls go after some of our school records."

Anna Majni, who placed 18th (9.125) on vault at state last season as a sophomore after finishing 33rd (8.525) as a freshman, moved to Michigan in the offseason.

Kylie Goshorn, who finished 11th (30.6) in the all-around in the league meet last season as a sophomore, also is not back with the team.

Boys basketball team on 3-game win streak

The boys basketball team is 3-1 overall and 1-1 in the OCC-Cardinal entering its game Friday, Dec. 28 at Hilliard Bradley.

Jerome, who are riding a three-game winning streak, then will face Cincinnati La Salle on Dec. 28 and Dover on Dec. 29 in the Stephen Gussler Invitational at Thomas Worthington.

Last season, Bradley was a Division I district runner-up and La Salle was a regional runner-up.

The Celtics opened Dec. 8 with a 66-49 loss to Worthington Kilbourne. They then beat Bellefontaine 70-63 on Dec. 12, Thomas 65-37 on Dec. 15 and Whetstone 63-42 on Dec. 16.

Senior post player Andrew Golda is averaging a team-high 12 points. He had 12 points and six rebounds against Whetstone as coach Richie Beard beat the team he coached the past three seasons.

"We're finally getting back to playing basketball the way we need to play," Beard said. "We're playing up-tempo. We're pressuring the ball. We're running in transition. Guys are sharing the basketball."

Girls basketball team continues OCC play

The girls basketball team was 1-5 overall before playing Logan on Dec. 19 and is 1-2 in the OCC-Cardinal as it prepares to play host to Bradley on Friday, Dec. 22.

After beating Kilbourne 40-26 on Dec. 8, the Celtics lost to DeSales 46-32 on Dec. 9 and to Thomas 41-37 on Dec. 15.

Thomas won 16 games a year ago and won its first four games this season, including rallying from a 21-15 deficit against the Celtics.

Stephanie Cline had 11 points and Jamie Cline scored eight against the Cardinals.

The Celtics follow the matchup with Bradley by playing in the Jeff Sheets Holiday Classic at Teays Valley. They will face Grove City on Dec. 29 and Amanda-Clearcreek on Dec. 30 in the event.

Amanda-Clearcreek was 5-3 before playing Wellington on Dec. 19, while Logan lost four of its first six games and Grove City lost five of its first seven.

Last season, Jerome got off to a similar start, losing 10 of its first 11 games before winning seven of its final 13.

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek

Schedules

GYMNASTICS

Dec. 13 -- at Marysville

Dec. 16 -- Hilliard Invitational at Hilliard Davidson

Jan. 3 -- Big Walnut, Olentangy and Westerville Central at Worthington Youth Boosters

Jan. 6 -- Wolfpack Invitational at Worthington Kilbourne

Jan. 11 -- Beauty & the Beast at Kilbourne

Jan. 13 -- McGee Invitational at Coffman

Jan. 17 -- at Coffman with Davidson, Delaware, Hilliard Bradley and Hilliard Darby

Jan. 19 -- Buckeye Valley, Kilbourne, Thornville Sheridan, Upper Arlington and Washington Court House Miami Trace at Trics Academy

Jan. 27 -- Dresden Tri-Valley Invitational

Jan. 31 -- at Thomas Worthington with Westerville Central

Feb. 3 -- Olentangy at Central Ohio Gymnastics & Cheerleading

Feb. 7 -- at Coffman with Central Crossing, Grove City, Upper Arlington and Westland

Feb. 10 -- OCC-Cardinal meet at Davidson

Below are the coming schedules for the Jerome boys basketball, girls basketball, hockey and wrestling teams:

BOYS BASKETBALL

*Dec. 22 -- At Hilliard Bradley

GIRLS BASKETBALL

*Dec. 22 -- Home vs. Hilliard Bradley

HOCKEY

*Dec. 23 -- Upper Arlington at Chiller Dublin

Dec. 26 -- Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit in Greg Shupe Memorial Warrior Shootout at Kent State

Dec. 27 -- Wooster and Sylvania Northview in Warrior Shootout

Dec. 28 -- TBD in Warrior Shootout

WRESTLING

*Dec. 21 -- At Thomas Worthington

*League contest