For the PRPC club hockey team, the adjustment to first-year coach Joe Tonello admittedly has taken some time.

For the PRPC club hockey team, the adjustment to first-year coach Joe Tonello admittedly has taken some time.

Thankfully for the Prowlers, they've got time to make that adjustment. The regular season is just more than halfway through, and coaches and players believe they're prepared to hit their stride down the stretch.

"We're starting to get the hang of it now," forward Adam McGrath said. "I think everybody is pretty glad that he brought the new style of play."

"They're finally adapting to my style," Tonello said. "They're still learning the system and adapting to it, but they've decided that they might as well try to work together on it."

Even while making the transition to Tonello, the Prowlers have maintained their usual spot atop the GCHSCHL.

With league play set to resume Friday when they travel to Athens, the Prowlers are 7-2-3 with 17 points in the league. Westerville is second at 6-5-1 with 13 points, followed by Newark (5-4-0, 10), Northeast (4-4-1, 9), Hilliard/Southwest (3-4-1, 7) and Athens (2-8, 4). Overall, the Prowlers are 9-5-3, including a 2-1 win over Upper Arlington on Nov. 30.

Even with the solid record, the Prowlers believe their best hockey lies ahead of them. For starters, PRPC should be 100 percent healthy when it returns to the ice Friday, thanks to the return of forward Chris Lohrman, who missed most of the first half of the season with a broken collarbone.

The Prowlers also have reason to expect their defense to improve. Although Tonello made some adjustments to the offensive system, the biggest move he has made has been to install a man-to-man defense, replacing the zone that the Prowlers had been running. McGrath said the man defense is more taxing physically and requires more focus from each individual player, but he said the demands of the new style should pay off.

"You have to rely on yourself a little bit more, and I think guys are starting to get a little bit more confident as they're winning one-on-one battles, and their play has also improved," McGrath said.

The Prowlers are allowing 2.6 goals per game, but that includes an 11-0 loss to Strongsville on Nov. 29. Sophomore Sean Straker has led defensively and has been "just an all-around good hockey player," according to Tonello.

The Prowlers are scoring just 2.1 goals per game, but they have scored 13 over their past four games.

As expected, McGrath leads the way. He has a team-leading 11 goals and nine assists and is the program's all-time leader in points with 190. He leads the league in points (during league games) with 17.

"He's starting where he left off last year," Tonello said. "He's definitely playing well."

Forward Jake Miller is second on the team in goals (8) and points (13), and several other players have between five and seven points. Tonello said he also has been particularly impressed with sophomore Kyle Baughman, who has gotten the most out of his 5-foot, 110-pound frame. He has three goals and three assists.

As the Prowlers head into the second portion of their season, Tonello said he's looking to see his team get more production from all four lines, which he believes would take their play to the next level. Still, for Tonello, the old adage about defense winning championships holds true.

"They need to nail the systems our team plays on defense," Tonello said. "If we can play tough defense, in every aspect of the arena, whether we're in the defensive zone, the neutral zone or offensive zone, if we can play tough defense, our offense will take care of itself."

At a glance

Below are the recent results and coming schedule for the PRPC club hockey team:

Nov. 28 -- Lost to Dublin Coffman 5-2

Nov. 29 -- Lost to Olentangy Liberty 5-0; lost to Strongsville 11-0

Nov. 30 -- Defeated Upper Arlington 2-1

*Dec. 5 -- Lost to Hilliard/Southwest 3-2

*Dec. 7 -- Tied Northeast at 5

*Dec. 12 -- Def. Athens 4-2

*Dec. 19 -- Def. Northeast 4-3

*Friday -- At Ohio University vs. Athens

*Sunday -- At Chiller North vs. Newark

*Jan. 9 -- At Chiller Ice Works vs. Athens

Of note: The Prowlers are 11-6-4 overall and 7-2-3 in the GCHSCHL.