Senior forward Evan Leeth entered the week of the club hockey state tournament expecting his Westerville team to receive an at-large berth.
Although the Warcats were only 11-33-7 overall, Leeth thought a challenging schedule would help them earn a spot in the Buckeye Cup, but it didn't happen.
The Warcats tied Massillon Jackson for the 12th and final berth, with Jackson receiving it because it defeated Westerville 3-1 on Dec. 2.
At-large berths are based on computer rankings and include criteria such as strength of schedule.
"We just wish we had a little more time to go after it," said Leeth, who attends Westerville North. "It ended pretty abruptly. We thought we might have squeaked into the tournament and it didn't turn out that way. It was a pretty bitter taste, but there's not much we can do now."
Leeth said the players received a text from coach Brian Thompson stating the team didn't qualify.
"We thought we had a good shot to get in," Leeth said. "We were completely prepared to go into it, but when I got that text right after school it was a big blow. It stunk."
Top-seeded Newark won the state title, defeating Cincinnati Indian Hill 6-2 in the final March 4 at Chiller North for its first championship since 2012.
"It stinks that it came down to this, especially when we were into a week of practice and we thought we were going to go and we were prepared to go to the state tournament," Thompson said. "I feel bad for the seniors that were getting prepared and then all of a sudden they don't get that last time. It's tough."
Senior forward Ryan Butler, who attends Westerville South, led the Warcats in scoring with 21 goals and 11 assists for 32 points. Sophomore forward Nicholas Frissora (Westerville Central) had 15 goals and 13 assists for 28 points, and senior forward A.J. Moarefdoust (Central) had 16 goals and nine assists for 25 points.
Senior forward Seth Sooley and junior forward Hunter Schlatterbeck, both of whom attend Central, were next with 23 points apiece. Junior forward Benjamin Mannino of North had 22 points.
Junior goaltender Sean Coonfare, who attends Oakstone Academy, finished 7-28-4 with a 3.15 goals-against average and a .908 save percentage.
Other players eligible to return are juniors Mason Dietrich (forward, South), Tyler Mowery (defenseman, Central) and Cameron Myers (forward, Central) and sophomores Jacob DeBella (goalie, South), Nicholas Fagan (forward, South) and Gabe Muccio (defenseman, Central).
The Warcats went 3-18-3 (9 points) in the Ohio Scholastic Hockey League to finish sixth behind Newark (43, 20-1-3), Dayton (30, 13-7-4), Northeast (28, 12-8-4), Hilliard (28, 12-8-4) and PHA (27, 12-9-3) and ahead of Athens (3, 0-21-3).
The league previously was called the Greater Columbus High School Club Hockey League.
Westerville went 1-2 in the Blue Jackets Cup, defeating Athens 8-1 on Feb. 16 and losing to Hilliard 5-0 on Feb. 15 and Newark 4-2 on Feb. 17.
"Everybody tells you it goes by quickly and you better enjoy it and you don't believe them, but it went by real fast," said Leeth, who played for three seasons. "I still can't believe it's over."
Westerville went 1-2 in the state tournament last season to finish 31-19-2.
The Warcats lost a key player from that team as junior Grant Dickinson joined the Wooster Oilers, a tier III junior team that plays in the North American 3 Hockey League.
Dickinson had a team-high 42 goals and 23 assists last season. He previously attended North, but moved to the Wooster area.
Through play March 9, Dickerson had seven goals and nine assists with the Oilers.
@ThisWeekFrankAt a glance
*Record: 11-33-7 overall, 3-18-3 (sixth) in OSHL
*Seniors lost: Ian Bushong, Ryan Butler, Travis Furman, Adam Goodfriend, Justin Kahle, Jack Larimer, Evan Leeth, Cody March, A.J. Moarefdoust, Cameron Morris and Seth Sooley
*Key returnees: Sean Coonfare, Nicholas Frissora, Benjamin Mannino and Hunter Schlatterbeck