Westerville club hockey coach Brian Thompson is hoping his team can salvage what has been a disappointing season.
The Warcats are 5-23-4 overall and sixth in the Ohio Scholastic Hockey League with a 2-15-2 record and six points, behind first-place Newark (29, 13-1-3).
"The wins and losses are not what we wanted it to be, but over the last couple of weeks -- with the exception of the most recent Newark game -- we've played much better and at a much more consistent level and a level that you have to be at to be competitive," Thompson said. "That's been our main focus the last few weeks."
Westerville lost to Newark 11-0 on Jan. 4 at Lou & Gib Ice Reese Arena. The teams play again Friday, Jan. 26, at Chiller Easton.
Thompson said goaltender Sean Coonfare, who attends Oakstone Academy, continues to be a bright spot in a subpar season.
"He's been our best player all year," Thompson said. "We've asked him to do a lot, more than you would like to ask your starting goaltender to do in the workload, but he shows up and he works hard every day. He sets the standard for how people have to play."
Thompson said Ian Bushong (Central) and Travis Furman (North) have played well on defense.
"They've been two of our better players all year," Thompson said.
Thompson also said Ben Mannino (North) and Hunter Schlatterbeck (Central) have played well recently on offense.
Westerville continued its "friendly competition" with Hilliard on Jan. 20 at Chiller Dublin, with the Wildcats earning a 2-0 win.
Thompson said his team enjoys playing Hilliard because they are two of the established club programs in the area.
"Rival makes it sound like there's bad blood," Thompson said. "It's more lighthearted than that. It's more of a friendly competition amongst the staffs.
"There's some other teams that I would be a little quicker to throw the rival tag on, but they're fun games to play."
Hilliard coach Wade Bartley coached Thompson with the Junior Blue Jackets from 2004-06.
Westerville snapped a 10-game winless streak with a 4-3 victory over the Northeast Storm on Jan. 14 in the Avalanche Tournament in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
"I was pretty proud of the boys," Furman said of the tournament win. "We were down a couple of guys, but we played hard. We actually won a game for the first time in two months, so we're all pretty upbeat now. It was a very long (winless) streak. It was frustrating, but we felt all the games were pretty close. We were in a lot of the games, so the effort was there."
At the conclusion of the regular season, OSHL teams compete in the league tournament, also called the Blue Jackets Cup, from Feb. 15-17 and Feb. 23 and 24. The winner automatically qualifies for the state tournament, known as the Buckeye Cup, scheduled for March 2-4.
Thompson, whose team lost to PHA 7-0 on Jan. 21 at Taft Coliseum, said several players have been battling flu-like symptoms.
"Hopefully we'll be getting healthy at the right time," Thompson said.
"Guys are starting to figure out how you have to play. If you can peak at the right time, you never know what could happen in a tournament setting."
Last season, the Warcats went 1-2 in the state tournament to finish 31-19-2 overall.