The Westerville club hockey team heads into the Blue Jackets Cup looking to secure a spot in the season's marquee event.
The Warcats are seeded fourth in the double-elimination league tournament and play fifth-seeded PHA in the first round Friday, Feb. 15, at Chiller Easton. The winner plays top-seeded Newark in the second round Saturday, Feb. 16, at Chiller Dublin.
The tournament continues Sunday, Feb. 17, at Chiller Dublin or Chiller North and resumes Feb. 22. The championship round begins Feb. 23 and concludes Feb. 24, if needed.
"I really look forward to the tournament and seeing what these guys do down the stretch because we're dialing into our game," coach Jordan DiGiando said.
Westerville is hoping to earn a berth in the double-elimination state tournament, known as the Buckeye Cup, which begins March 8. Last season, Westerville and Massillon Jackson tied for the 12th and final berth, with Jackson earning the at-large spot because it defeated the Warcats 3-1 during the regular season.
At-large berths are based on computer rankings and include criteria such as strength of schedule.
The state tournament features the top teams from the Ohio Scholastic Hockey League, the North Coast High School Hockey League and the Cincinnati High School Hockey League.
The Warcats are 20-20 overall and finished 10-14 (20 points) in the OSHL, behind Newark (41, 18-1-5), Dayton (38, 17-3-4) and Hilliard (30, 14-8-2) and ahead of PHA (20, 8-12-4), Northeast (18, 8-14-2) and Athens (1, 0-23-1).
In its regular-season finale Feb. 10 at OhioHealth Ice Haus, Westerville earned a 5-4 win over Northeast as senior forwards Ben Mannino and Hunter Schlatterbeck each scored twice and junior forward Nicholas Frissora scored once to help end a five-game losing streak. Senior goaltender Sean Coonfare had 32 saves.
"We've had great play out of Sean recently," DiGiando said. "He's just a competitor."
DiGiando said freshman forward Sedric Cowans has been another key contributor.
"We changed up some things in our system and we're playing our new system well," DiGiando said. "It's generating some chances for us and it's helping us out defensively quite a bit."