Despite a slow start, Hilliard club hockey coach Wade Bartley hasn’t lost confidence in his team’s commitment to working hard.

The Wildcats went 1-3 in the Chiller Thanksgiving Classic held Nov. 23-25 at Chiller North, capping the event with a 3-2 shootout loss to Cincinnati St. Xavier in the third-place game to slip to 3-9.

Hilliard went 1-2 in pool play in the event, defeating Dayton 3-2 and losing to Olentangy Orange 4-2 and St. Charles 5-2.

“We are having a few growing pains, but we work extremely hard,” said Bartley, who is in his eighth season. “It’s probably the hardest-working team I’ve had as a whole. We don’t have a big superstar, a 50-goal scorer, but we have guys that will chip in right through the lineup.”

Hilliard, which tied Northeast for third (28 points) in the seven-team Ohio Scholastic Hockey League last season, is 2-4 in the league heading into a game against PHA on Sunday, Dec. 2, at OhioHealth Ice Haus.

“We want to finish in the top four in our league and that’s still attainable with our slow start,” Bartley said. “Once they come together as a team, we’ll be a really tough team to play.”

The Wildcats’ league wins came against PHA (5-3 on Nov. 2) and Athens (13-0 on Nov. 10).

Five players had a goal against PHA and senior forward Isaac Lee (Jonathan Alder) and junior forward John Pastirzyk (Fairbanks) each had three goals against Athens. Senior defenseman Nathan Fritchley (Bradley) and junior forward Nick Grossenbacher (Bradley) each had two goals against the Bobcats.

“It’s a tougher league this year,” said Peter Burback, a senior forward from Davidson. “Every team is about equal, so it’s not going to be one team dominating. It’s going to be a fight.”

Bartley had to replace his tandem of goaltenders from last season as Ty Moore (Central Crossing) and Jesse Walz (Davidson) graduated. Senior Jonathan Szekeres and junior Camden Hanson, both from Bradley, have been splitting time in goal.

Hilliard also lost its leading scorer from a season ago in 2018 Darby graduate Ty Spangler, who had 36 goals and 29 assists.

In addition to Burback, Grossenbacher, Lee, Pastirzyk and Szekeres, other returnees are seniors Declan Costello (defenseman, Jonathan Alder), Kyle Heidtman (defenseman, Bradley), Trevor Seitz (defenseman, Wellington) and Matthew Spangler (forward, Darby), juniors Marcus Cornett (forward, home-schooled) and Ryan Mayr (forward, Davidson) and sophomore Ryan Koenig (defenseman, Davidson).

Also on the team are seniors Matt Bailey (forward, Davidson), Joseph Dubosh (forward, Jonathan Alder) and Mitchell Schlotterer (defenseman, Davidson), juniors David Bentley (defenseman, Central Crossing) and Kaeden Boyd (forward, Ready), sophomores Cameron DeForest (forward, Bradley) and Jaxson Gillespie (forward, Darby) and freshman Hayden Clingman (defenseman, Bradley).

“Early (in the season), it’s typical to find your way and this group is no different,” Bartley said.

Hilliard is seeking its 12th consecutive state tournament appearance. Known as the Buckeye Cup, the Wildcats went 1-2 in pool play last season to finish 28-18-4 overall.

“I have full confidence in these dudes. They’re major hard workers,” Burback said. “We’re going to be there.”

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekFrank

Schedule

*Nov. 2 – PHA at Chiller Easton

*Nov. 3 – Dayton at Chiller Dublin

*Nov. 9 – Westerville at Chiller Dublin

*Nov. 10 – Athens at Chiller Dublin

Nov. 11 – St. Charles at Ohio Health IceHaus

*Nov. 15 – Newark at Lou & Gib Reese Ice Arena

Nov. 16 – Dublin Jerome at Chiller Dublin

*Nov. 18 – Northeast at Chiller Easton

Nov. 23 – Olentangy Orange in Chiller Thanksgiving Classic at Chiller North

Nov. 24 – Dayton and St. Charles in Chiller Thanksgiving Classic at Chiller North

Nov. 25 – Cincinnati St. Xavier in Chiller Thanksgiving Classic at Chiller North

*Dec. 2 – PHA at OhioHealth Ice Haus

*Dec. 8 – Athens at Bird Arena

*Dec. 9 – Dayton at Springfield Chiller

*Dec. 14 – Newark at Chiller Dublin

*Dec. 21 – PHA at Chiller Dublin

*Dec. 23 – Athens at Bird Arena

*Dec. 29 – Northeast at Chiller Dublin

*Dec. 30 – Dayton at Chiller Springfield

*Jan. 3 – Newark at Lou & Gib Reese Ice Arena

*Jan. 4 – PHA at Chiller Dublin

*Jan. 11 – Northeast at Chiller North

*Jan. 12 – Westerville at Chiller North

*Jan. 25 – Newark at Chiller Dublin

*Jan. 26 – Westerville at Chiller Dublin

*Feb. 1 – Athens at Chiller Easton

*Feb. 2 – Northeast at Chiller Dublin

*Feb. 8 – Westerville at Chiller Easton

*Feb. 10 – Dayton at Fairgrounds Coliseum

*League contest