The final week of the regular season featured plenty of ups and downs for the Olentangy High School hockey team, but the Braves did their best to maintain perspective.
Despite losing one of their leaders in senior forward Mitchel Dietz to a broken right leg Jan. 28, and having senior night festivities hampered by a 5-0 loss to New Albany on Feb. 4, Olentangy made history on the final day of the regular season by winning its first league championship.
The Braves put the capper on the Capital Hockey Conference-Blue Division title with a 10-2 win over Gahanna on Feb. 5, although they technically clinched the championship during the game when Cincinnati Moeller lost to Liberty 4-2.
Olentangy had finished second in the CHC-Blue each of the past two years, and had been third twice and fourth twice since becoming a varsity program before the 2008-09 season.
"That's amazing," forward Dan Shultz said. "When we first came out this year, even in the summer skates, we knew that we had a chance to do something special this year with the depth we haven't had in past years. If we were to put in the effort and stick to it, we could get stuff done this year. We've done exactly that."
Olentangy, which is 15-11-2-3 overall and went 7-5-2-2 with 18 points in the CHC-Blue, ahead of Moeller (15, 6-7-0-3), Watterson (9, 4-11-0-1) and Thomas Worthington (7, 2-11-0-3), will begin Blue Jackets Cup play Thursday, Feb. 9, against top-seeded St. Charles at Chiller North. Olentangy is seeded eighth in the tournament.
"I am excited for what's to come," defenseman Carter Conrad said. "Good communication on the ice is the key. When we've played well, we've made good tape-to-tape passes and just worked as a unit instead of as individuals."
A four-game CHC winning streak in December helped the Braves overcome a 0-2 start and establish an early lead in their division. Olentangy won a season-high five consecutive games in mid-January, but lost Dietz during a 1-all tie against DeSales on Jan. 28. Dietz had scored the Braves' only goal that night before being hit by a defenseman as he was getting to ready to push off his right leg near center-ice.
"You hate to lose anybody, but Mitchel drives our offense and he only had a handful of games left in his high school career," coach Mike Ross said. "It's a tough thing to swallow as a coach, and it's hard for everybody else to see as well."
Ross moved Anderson Hunt from defenseman to forward after Dietz's injury, and he experimented with his lines last weekend trying to find the right combination before the postseason.
"(Hunt) brings some punch and scoring power that we need with Mitchel out," Ross said. "We have to play the body well, skate better and play to our system. We tend to be our own worst enemy sometimes with untimely penalties. We just did not have the jump (against New Albany) for whatever reason. We have to be better defensively. Hopefully we learn from our mistakes and do what it takes to win at this level."
In its 16th season, the Blue Jackets Cup includes all of the CHC teams. The championship bracket consists of the top four teams in the CHC-Red, the top three in the CHC-White and the CHC-Blue champion.
The Olentangy-St. Charles winner will play Dublin Jerome or New Albany in a semifinal Friday, Feb. 10, with that winner advancing to the championship game Sunday, Feb. 12, at the OhioHealth Ice Haus.
Olentangy's division championship means it will be in the CHC-White in 2017-18. The CHC-Blue winner is promoted to the CHC-White for the next season, and the CHC-White winner is promoted to the CHC-Red. Last-place teams fall back one division.
Next year is the last thing on the Braves' minds at the moment, however. Shultz is certain he knows what the Braves have to do to put together a postseason run.
"We're at our best when we fly around the ice," he said. "We can compete with any team in the area when we do that. We have to get our forecheck together and get some solid hits in."
Boys basketball team
seeks late surge
The boys basketball team tried to break a three-game losing streak Feb. 7 when it played Westerville Central.
Olentangy fell to 7-10 overall with a 61-45 loss to Eastmoor Academy on Feb. 4, and dropped to 1-6 in the OCC-Buckeye the night before when it lost to Westerville North 52-50. North scored the final seven points of the game, and Eastmoor pulled away with an 18-4 second-quarter advantage.
A 75-60 loss to Westerville South on Jan. 27 preceded the losses to North and Eastmoor.
"We get to the point where we have a couple turnovers here and there and it costs us a game," coach John Feasel said. "We're hanging right in there. We just have to get over the hump. We've had three tough teams in a row. We have to keep battling every night. Our schedule is pretty tough."
Greg Hendrix had 15 points, Sean Marks scored 14 and Jason Sieve added 10 against North. The Warriors' Julius Brown made the winning 3-pointer with 30 seconds left.
Sieve had 14 points and Marks added 13 against Eastmoor.
"We are learning. We have to keep battling through adversity," Feasel said. "They are responding better than they were. We have to come out on the winning side a little more and the guys will find out what that feels like. You learn from these losses, and we are learning some stuff about ourselves. We'll keep rolling on."
Wrestlers fall in
The wrestling team's hopes for its first appearance in the Division I state team tournament ended Feb. 1, when it lost to Marysville 39-20 in a Region 6 semifinal at Dublin Coffman.
Olentangy lost nine of 14 weight classes to the Shamrocks.
Winners were Colton Doup, who edged Logan Painter at 195 pounds; Brady Pethtel, who beat Cole Hosterman 8-1 at 132; Ethan Robinson, who defeated Nathan DeWitt 7-0 at 182; and Jacob Sherman, who recorded an 18-3 win by technical fall against Jameson Bigler at 113. Brice Lade won by forfeit at 160.
Coffman went on to win the regional title, edging the Monarchs 33-31 later that night.
Olentangy returned to OCC-Buckeye competition Feb. 8 against Westerville North. The Braves were 2-1 in league duals with two matches remaining.
Three Olentangy football players announced their college decisions Feb. 1.
Matt Gray will play at Hillsdale, Deonta Mack will play at Urbana and Hayden Schmidt will play at Brown.