In its first season, the Columbus Academy hockey team already is making giant strides.
The Vikings are competing in the junior varsity Capital Hockey Conference-White Division, and they're in first place with a 6-2 record and 12 points. They play second-place Upper Arlington (11, 5-0-1) on Friday, Jan. 19, at OhioHealth Ice Haus.
"Our main goal this year is laying some groundwork for the years to come," coach Corey Taber said. "We want to garner some interest in the school for kids who are maybe in school right now and thinking about playing and kids who are bantam age (or) middle school age who are thinking about playing."
The Vikings slipped to 12-5 overall with an 8-2 loss to Olentangy Orange on Jan. 14 in the Pioneer Classic. After play was postponed Jan. 12 because of bad weather, Academy defeated New Albany 6-4 and North Royalton 4-2 on Jan. 13.
"I'm really surprised by this," junior forward Cole Walker said of the team's start. "I wasn't expecting much, but everybody is having fun with it."
The Vikings are hoping for a strong performance in the junior varsity Blue Jackets Cup, which will be held Feb. 14-18.
"We want to have some sort of success and make it far along in the Columbus Blue Jackets Cup at the end of the year," Taber said. "We want to prove ourselves that way. We want to make some noise in the league."
Taber, who played junior hockey and is 26, said a highlight this season was the team's first game Nov. 18 against Dublin Scioto at Chiller Ice Works. Although the Vikings lost 5-2, Taber was pleased with the turnout. The Vikings play home games at Ice Works and Chiller Easton.
"We ended up losing, but we had several students packed at the small Worthington rink," Taber said. "It blew me away because I've never seen a high school team with that kind of draw."
Academy earned its first win by defeating the Olentangy-Dublin Hockey Club 12-6 in the Adam Allgeyer Memorial Showcase on Dec. 1 at Chiller Easton.
The team features players with prep experience along with several first-year players.
Walker played at Gahanna, and fellow juniors Gunnar Geiger (defenseman) and Jacob Sardo (forward) played at New Albany. They are the top three scorers in the CHC-White, as Walker and Sardo both have 13 goals and Geiger has 10.
"We have about five or six new players who have never played hockey before, so everybody is helping out," Walker said. "Everybody who has played before is helping the other kids."
Freshman Max Crane volunteered to play goaltender since the team lacked a player at the position, and he has "had a great year," Taber said. "We were scrambling towards the end of summer and early fall because we didn't have a goalie and Max stepped up. He's come up huge."
Taber said freshmen Luke Budzik (forward), Campbell Gwin (forward), Patrick Daly (defenseman) and Crane played for the Academy bantam team last season.
Other players are juniors Oscar Giller (defenseman), David Li (forward/defenseman), Aidan Macchia (forward), Greyson Noblitt (defenseman) and Tyler Schlonsky (forward) and freshmen Keenan Bellisari (forward), Andrew Golden (forward) and Nate Rausch (forward).
"We're a smaller-sized team, but I would put us at the top end of speed and skill within the league," Taber said. "We have a couple tough guys on our team and our smaller guys aren't afraid to go in the corners."
Taber hopes the program eventually advances to the varsity level. Parents first approached athletics director Dominic Facciolla about forming a program in 2010, with the sport eventually making its debut at the bantam level last year.
"We owe a lot to a very strong group of parents who organized and ran a bantam team last year, promoted and encouraged kids to play and helped tremendously to work with the school to make this happen," Facciolla said.
Wrestling team competes at Grandview
The wrestling team finished 11th (58 points) in the 17-team Grandview Invitational on Jan. 6 behind champion Grove City (179).
Josh Pearson was second at 195 pounds to lead the Vikings. Keiren Gorospe was third at 132, and Ethan Halpern (120) and Eric Menq (170) both were fourth.
On Jan. 11, the Vikings defeated Grandview 42-24 and lost to host West Jefferson 52-6.
Boys basketball team chasing league title
The boys basketball team will continue its pursuit of an MSL-Ohio title when it visits London on Saturday, Jan. 20.
The Vikings and Whitehall are tied for first in the league at 4-0. The teams were scheduled to play Jan. 12, but the game was postponed because of bad weather.
Academy was 10-0 overall before playing Northridge on Jan. 16.
Hayden Compton scored 16 points, Chris Boyle had 13, Addis Boyd scored 12, Dalyn DeCree had 11 and Dorrian Moultrie added 10 in a 77-49 win over visiting Hudson Western Reserve Academy on Jan. 13.
The Vikings defeated Bexley 53-46 on Jan. 4 and Grandview 52-44 on Jan. 6 in league play.
Boyd scored 17 points and Boyle added 13 against Bexley, and Boyd and Boyle each scored nine points against Grandview.
"We're just taking it one practice at a time," coach Jeff Warstler said. "We're pounding the fundamentals and staying disciplined. This team has a great work ethic. I'm happy with the way we've defended thus far."
Below are the coming schedules for the Columbus Academy boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
Jan. 18 -- Home vs. Patriot Prep
*Jan. 20 -- At London. The Vikings defeated the Red Raiders 67-65 (OT) on Dec. 9.
Jan. 23 -- Home vs. Centerburg
*Jan. 19 -- At Worthington Christian. The Vikings lost to the Warriors 44-20 on Dec. 8.
Jan. 23 -- Home vs. Delaware Christian
*Jan. 23 -- Lancaster at Tiki Lanes
SWIMMING & DIVING
Jan. 19 -- Home vs. Bexley
Jan. 20 -- Viking Invitational at home
Jan. 23 -- Home vs. DeSales and Madison Christian
Jan. 20 -- Kevin Michael Tournament at home