For the second consecutive season, January has been kind to the Olentangy High School hockey team.
As a result, the Braves find themselves in control of the Capital Hockey Conference-White Division as they begin the final two weekends of the league season Friday, Jan. 25, against Thomas Worthington at Chiller North.
According to forward Gabe Zipser, the reason for the Braves' recent surge is simple.
"We haven't overcomplicated the game," he said. "For one, our defense has done a much better job of moving the puck up to the wings and our defensemen have done a better job of getting low and being able to support them. We can get the puck deep and go to work from there."
Paced by a balanced offense that featured four players with 11 to 17 goals through 24 games, Olentangy is 14-10-0-3 overall and 7-5 with 14 points in the CHC, four points ahead of second-place Dublin Coffman (10, 5-7) and Orange (10, 5-6).
Defenseman Dakota Falk had 17 goals through 24 games, tied for the team lead with Landon Johnson, and led the Braves in assists (24) and points (41). Zipser had 13 goals and 13 assists despite missing several games because of groin injuries and Kyle Gavin had 11 goals.
Falk was a center growing up but moved to defenseman while he played for the Columbus Chill Youth Hockey Association AA Blue Jackets early in high school. He played one season of AAA hockey as a sophomore before joining the Braves but has remained mindful of his offensive capabilities.
"I grew up playing center and I went to an AA team and I was asked to play defenseman for a weekend and that stuck," Falk said. "I like to get those goals to help the team out wherever I can. No one had a huge lead in points last year and this year is the same thing. We don't get goals that are snipers from the blue line. We scrap for everything we get."
Olentangy went 2-2-2 to start January last year before winning seven consecutive games to end the regular season and finish second in the CHC-White to Cincinnati Moeller.
The Braves started this month with a 6-1 loss to New Albany on Jan. 2 before winning four in a row, including a 5-2 decision against Orange on Jan. 12 to take over sole possession of first place in the division. Their winning streak was broken with a 3-2 loss to Liberty on Jan. 13 at Nationwide Arena, a game in which the Braves scored two consecutive goals to tie it and gave up the winner with about six minutes left.
"Something seems to click for us around Christmas," coach Mike Ross said. "We can't take nights off. We have to be able to compete for 45 minutes and be willing to be gritty with a hard-hat mentality and get some ugly goals."
Marks moves atop boys scoring list
Sean Marks became the boys basketball team's all-time leading scorer Jan. 18, scoring 22 points in a 67-52 win at Westerville South.
Marks, a senior guard and Ohio Dominican recruit, needed 10 points entering the game to pass Rob Sanders, a 1982 graduate who had 1,170 career points. Marks surpassed that mark with a basket late in the second quarter.
Alex Sieve added 12 points for the Braves, who were 7-5 overall before playing Big Walnut on Jan. 22 and are 3-3 in the OCC-Buckeye entering a Friday, Jan. 25, home game against Westerville North.
Olentangy had been scheduled to play Centennial on Jan. 19 at Hoosier Gym in Knightstown, Indiana, but bad weather postponed the game to Feb. 2.
Swimmers prepare for league meet
Bridget Parker of the girls swimming and diving team will try to defend her 200- and 500-yard freestyle championships when the Braves participate in the OCC-Buckeye meet Saturday, Jan. 26, at Thomas.
Parker also was on the first-place 200 medley relay a year ago, helping Olentangy to 273.5 points and second place behind Liberty (279) and ahead of Orange (186), Westerville Central (182.5), North (161) and South (145).
The boys team was third (210.5) last year behind Liberty (400.5) and Orange (259) and ahead of North (163), South (142) and Central (73).
Below are the coming schedules for the Olentangy boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, gymnastics, hockey, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
*Jan. 25 -- Home vs. Westerville North. The Braves defeated the Warriors 65-53 on Nov. 30.
Jan. 29 -- Home vs. Dublin Coffman
*Jan. 25 -- At Westerville North. The Braves defeated the Warriors 31-30 on Dec. 14.
Jan. 29 -- At Grandview
*Jan. 25 -- Westerville North at Columbus Square Bowling Palace
Jan. 26 -- Jaguar Baker Marathon at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl
*Jan. 28 -- Delaware at Colony Lanes
Jan. 30 -- Buckeye Valley at Delaware Lanes
Jan. 30 -- At Worthington Kilbourne with DeSales and Dresden Tri-Valley
*Jan. 25 -- Thomas Worthington at Chiller North. The Braves lost to the Cardinals 5-2 on Nov. 17.
*Jan. 26 -- Dublin Jerome at Chiller Dublin. The Braves lost to the Celtics 6-1 on Dec. 1.
*Jan. 27 -- DeSales at Chiller Easton
SWIMMING & DIVING
Jan. 26 -- OCC-Buckeye meet at Thomas
Jan. 26 -- Rieman Invitational at Delaware
Jan. 30 -- At Teays Valley