The great unknown is one of the top concerns the Newark club hockey team has entering the Buckeye Cup state tournament Friday through Sunday at the Chiller North and Dispatch Ice Haus.

The great unknown is one of the top concerns the Newark club hockey team has entering the Buckeye Cup state tournament Friday through Sunday at the Chiller North and Dispatch Ice Haus.

That unknown is the four participants coming out of the Cincinnati High School Hockey League. The Generals defeated Mason 5-1 on Jan. 24, but that's the only team from that league they played during the regular season. Newark went 5-0 with a combined advantage of 21-6 against teams from the North Coast High School Hockey League, which also has four entries in the 12-team field.

"I think it's going to come down to (the) matchup against these Cincinnati teams," forward Joe Parini said. "We know we can beat every team out of Cleveland (and) we've proven that. We've beaten every team coming out of (the Greater Columbus High School Club Hockey League, too). It will just be seeing what these Cincinnati teams are like. I guarantee if we play hard hockey, just play our game, we're going to be successful."

The Generals are the top seed from the six-team GCHSCHL, which also is represented by PRPC, Hilliard/Southwest and Northeast. The Generals were 27-5-4 overall and had gone 17-0-3 in its last 20 entering a non-league game last Thursday against the Ice Prowlers, whom they defeated twice to win their first Blue Jackets Cup title, including 3-1 in the final Feb. 22 at Chiller North. PRPC, which was 14-8-7 entering last Thursday, is the only team in the league to qualify for the state tournament all five years.

Liberty Township Lakota East went 24-0 to win the regular-season title in the 13-team CHSHL and was 26-1-1 overall entering the league tournament, which concludes this weekend. The schedule for the state tournament will be announced afterward.

The other state will be West Chester Lakota West, Northern Kentucky and Mason, which would be replaced if a lower seed won the league tournament. Lakota West captured the state title in 2007, but last year the GCHSCHL had its first champion in Athens.

"We're going down and hoping to bring the team with us, take some notes and do our homework," Newark coach Don Jennings said of his scouting plans for this weekend. "(Lakota) East looks like a powerhouse so we'll try to get a handle on them and see how good they really are."

Medina, which captured the first two state club titles in 2005 and 2006, is the top seed coming out of the 11-team NCHSHL after winning the regular-season title. The other participants are the Cleveland Vikings, Lakewood Rangers and Rocky River Buccaneers, who lost to Lakewood in the final of the league tournament.

Jennings also has concerns about the influence wielded by the Cleveland-based NCHSHL, which is the oldest of the three leagues participating in the state tournament, especially with the five-point system used in round-robin play. Teams play three games and are awarded one point for winning a period or a half-point for tying, and game winners also receive two points for a maximum of five. The four teams with the most points advance to the championship semifinals.

"(The GCHSCHL) is the host association this year, and since we're the top seed we should get the most favorable draw," Jennings said. "It doesn't always work that way when they group the pools together, though. Cleveland sets all the rules and we could end up being with Lakota West, for example. They're probably better than any of the Cleveland teams."

However things turn out the Generals are enjoying their beast season. Entering last Thursday, they hadn't lost since the Ice Prowlers defeated them 4-1 on Jan. 4. The Columbus Blue Jackets will honor them as Blue Jackets Cup champions during their game against Nashville on March 31 at Nationwide Arena.

They've come a long way since several members of this year's senior class played on an 11-32-7 team as freshmen in 2005-06.

"I'm kind of speechless," goalie Andrew Clark said after the Blue Jackets Cup. "We've tried so hard from that year when a lot of us guys made it on the varsity team."

NOTES -- The Generals trailed in two of their three Blue Jackets Cup games, and Parini's goal with three seconds remaining lifted them past PRPC 4-3 in the winners bracket final. Drew Link scored in sudden death during a 3-2 win over Northeast in the team's opening game. Parini totaled two goals and two assists during the tournament and Link had three goals and an assist. Ten players contributed points, and freshman Clay Beckholt had one goal with three assists. "After four years we've finally learned how to win at the end of a game," Jennings said.