The Prowler Hockey Association club team has raised its level of play in recent weeks, particularly in Ohio Scholastic Hockey League games.
The Prowlers have won five of their last seven league games to move into third place in the OSHL at 8-6-2 (18 points), behind the Dayton Stealth (28, 13-4-2) and the Newark Generals (27, 12-1-3). The Hilliard Wildcats and Northeast Storm are tied for fourth (17, 7-6-3), followed by the Westerville Warcats (6, 2-13-2) and the Athens Bobcats (3, 0-13-3).
"We're playing really good hockey right now and we're getting contributions across the board," coach Bob McElheney said. "The entire team is stepping up to the next level and it's exciting."
PHA competed in the Hemby Cup Midwinter Classic held Jan. 13-15 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Prowlers opened the event with a 5-2 win over the Richmond (Virginia) Generals on Jan. 13 and defeated the Pineville (North Carolina) Falcons 6-1 and the Blue Ridge (Virginia) Bears 2-1 on Jan. 14.
PHA improved to 20-8-2 overall with a 1-0 overtime win over the Richmond Generals in the championship game Jan. 15.
The Prowlers return to league action Saturday, Jan. 20, against Athens at Taft Coliseum and will play Westerville the next day at the same venue.
At the conclusion of the regular season, the top four teams in the OSHL standings will compete in the league tournament, also called the Blue Jackets Cup, Feb. 15-17 and Feb. 23 and 24. The state tournament, known as the Buckeye Cup, will be held March 2-4.
"We're ranked fifth in the state right now, so we want to keep improving and get back to state again and see what happens," said McElheney, whose team was state runner-up last season. "We're coming along nicely."
Senior forward Deric Richison, a home-schooled student from the Groveport school district, was leading the Prowlers offensively through 26 games with 34 goals, 14 assists and 48 points, including 23 goals and six assists in league play.
Senior forward Ryan O'Callaghan of Pickerington North had 15 goals and a team-best 16 assists for 31 points. Freshman forward Brandon Hux had nine goals, 10 assists and 19 points and his brother, senior defenseman Devin Hux, had seven goals, 10 assists and 17 points. Both attend Pickerington Central.
Senior forward Brody Beckwith of Canal Winchester had eight goals and seven assists.
"All those guys have been great and (senior forward) Brandon Wise (of Hartley) has also been a strong contributor on offense," McElheney said. "Devin and Garrett Bowers (of Reynoldsburg) have been exceptional on defense and Will Jones (of North) has played well defensively."
The Prowlers have used two goaltenders in senior Tyler Dorian (Central) and junior Spencer Jolley (Dela-ware Area Career Center). Through 26 games, Dorian was 7-7-2 with a 2.30 goals-against average and a .902 save percentage with 396 saves, and Jolley was 9-1 with a 1.70 GAA and an .891 save percentage with 179 saves.
"Both have played very well," McElheney said. "Tyler is hot right now. He's really coming alive."
Below is the coming schedule for the PHA club hockey team:
*Jan. 20 -- Athens at Taft Coliseum
*Jan. 21 -- Westerville at Taft Coliseum