Upper Arlington High School hockey coach Jay Graham has been waiting all season for his team to break out offensively. It finally appears to be happening, and the timing couldn't be much better.

Upper Arlington High School hockey coach Jay Graham has been waiting all season for his team to break out offensively. It finally appears to be happening, and the timing couldn't be much better.

Seeded 12th, the Golden Bears opened the district tournament with a 4-1 win over Cincinnati St. Xavier last Friday at Chiller Dublin. They then defeated seventh-seeded St. Charles 4-2 in the second round last Sunday at the Dispatch Ice Haus to improve to 13-22-3 overall.

UA will play second-seeded Dublin Coffman in the third round at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at the Ice Haus, with the winner playing top-seeded Cincinnati Sycamore or sixth-seeded Beavercreek in a district semifinal at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Ice Haus.

The district final will be played at 5 p.m. March 6 at the Ice Haus.

"Everyone really felt a sense of urgency. It's do-or-die," senior forward Andrew Daehn said after the win over St. Charles. "If we don't win this game, our season's over. We had to make it happen. We have a big senior class, and we all want to keep it going as long as we can."

Entering the district tournament, UA was averaging 2.11 goals per game and had scored just 14 goals in its previous 13 games. Moreover, the Bears had been shut out five times during that 13-game stretch.

Graham has been stressing to his players in recent weeks the importance of playing physical. He believes the more physical the Bears play, the more turnovers they will create. And the more turnovers they create, the more scoring chances they will have.

"(Playing physical) is something we've been working on a lot," Graham said.

The Bears' physical play paid off against St. Xavier and St. Charles. Against St. Xavier, Daehn, forwards Neil McKenzie and Jack Sansbury and forward/defenseman K.C. Kessler scored and goaltender Drew Cook had 22 saves.

The tournament win was the Bears' first in three years. They lost in the first round the past two seasons, including a 3-2 loss to St. Xavier last year. UA had lost to the Bombers by the same score on Jan. 31.

"We're definitely throwing the body around and going hard after the puck and winning all the one-on-one battles, and that's really what it comes down to," Daehn said.

UA had lost twice to St. Charles during the regular season, falling 4-2 on Nov. 28 in the Midwest Thanksgiving Classic and 3-2 in a Capital Hockey Conference contest Jan. 22. Last Sunday against the Cardinals, the Bears continued to finish their checks, which helped them jump out to a 4-0 lead behind two goals from forward Ethan Burton and one apiece from Daehn and Kessler. Cook had 21 saves.

"I think that was the best game we've played all year, for sure," Graham said. "St. Charles had beaten us twice handily ... so we're real pleased that we were able to get some pucks in the back of the net and find our scoring touch.

"We've been skunked so many times trying to find the net, that maybe (the goals will) come in bunches. We're glad to see that it's coming at the right time of the year."

UA has lost both of its contests against Coffman this season, falling 2-1 in league play on Dec. 4 and 2-0 in the Blue Jackets Cup on Feb. 11. The Shamrocks' second goal in the most recent meeting was scored into an empty net, as the Bears had pulled Cook in favor of an extra skater in an effort to tie the score.

"We just weren't able to find the net against (Coffman goaltender Alex) Rogers," Graham said of the losses to the Shamrocks. "If we can find the net against him a couple times, we feel real good about our chances."

The Bears not only will look to continue their physical play against Coffman, but will try to screen Rogers as much as they can.

"We need to get traffic in front (of the net) and try to find the rebounds," Daehn said. "That's definitely one of the keys to the game. We need everyone driving to the net as hard as they can and fighting for (the puck)."

UA lost to Beavercreek 2-1 on Jan. 16 but has not played Sycamore.

At a glance

Below are the recent results and coming schedule for the Upper Arlington hockey team:

*Feb. 8 -- Defeated Olentangy 4-1

*Feb. 9 -- Game against DeSales canceled

Feb. 11 -- Lost to Dublin Coffman 2-0 in Blue Jackets Cup

Feb. 12 -- Lost to Gahanna 2-1 in Blue Jackets Cup

Last Friday -- Def. Cincinnati St. Xavier 4-1 in first round of district tournament

Last Sunday -- Def. St. Charles 4-2 in second round of district tournament

Saturday -- At Dispatch Ice Haus (2:30 p.m.) vs. second-seeded Coffman in third round of district tournament. Winner plays top-seeded Cincinnati Sycamore or sixth-seeded Beavercreek in district semifinal at 3 p.m. Sunday at Ice Haus. UA is seeded 12th.

Of note: The Bears are 13-22-3 overall and finished 6-4-1-1 (eighth) in the Capital Hockey Conference.

*CHC game