The Prowler Hockey Association club team is hoping a rough showing in the Blue Jackets Cup last weekend won't prevent it from qualifying for the 12-team state tournament known as the Buckeye Cup.
The top 12 teams in the final USA Hockey rankings released Feb. 20 on myhockey-rankings.com earn berths for the Buckeye Cup, which runs March 8-10.
The Prowlers were ranked 12th last week, but lost both of their games in the double-elimination Blue Jackets Cup, which serves as the league tournament for the Ohio Scholastic Hockey League.
PHA was seeded fifth of seven teams in the Blue Jackets Cup and lost to fourth-seeded Westerville 5-4 in the first round Feb. 15 and was eliminated with a 2-1 loss to third-seeded Hilliard on Feb. 16.
"It makes it difficult when you're on the bubble and lose because now we're left crossing our fingers and hoping a few teams behind us don't finish strong," coach Bob McElheney said. "(Cincinnati) Indian Hill is right behind us and they play their last game (Feb. 19), so it could come down to that game.
"We're just going to practice like we have all season until we find out one way or the other."
Despite the losses in the Blue Jackets Cup that dropped the Prowlers' record to 10-24-8, McElheney was pleased with his team's effort against Westerville.
"Our ice effort against Westerville may have been one of our best all season," he said. "It definitely was a winning effort, but unfortunately, the puck didn't bounce our way one last time."
Kyle Mead, a freshman at Canal Winchester High School, had two goals against Westerville and Carson Stanley (Pickerington Central) and Peyton Strader (Grove City) each scored one.
Garrett Bowers (Reynoldsburg) had two assists against the Warcats and Mead, Strader, Stanley, Paxton Waits (Licking Heights), Logan Beckwith (Canal Winchester) and Gino Palombaro (Bloom-Carroll) had one assist apiece.
Goaltender Spencer Jolley (Delaware Area Career Center) made 23 saves against Westerville and 22 against Hilliard.
Caden Albert (Pickerington North) scored against Hilliard off an assist from Daniel Trask (North).
"Hilliard has been a tough nut for us to crack," said McElheney, whose team went 1-3 against the Wildcats during the regular season.
"It would nice to see how we stack up outside of our league. We're cautiously optimistic that we'll get to continue playing."