Having fallen short of its first goal of winning the Blue Jackets Cup title, the Hilliard club hockey team has shifted its attention to another target.
The Wildcats went 3-2 in the double-elimination Ohio Scholastic Hockey League tournament, known as the Blue Jackets Cup. They were eliminated with a 6-3 loss to Dayton on Feb. 23 at OhioHealth Ice Haus.
Ryan Mayr, Marcus Cornett and Cameron DeForest scored and goaltender Jonathon Szekeres had 25 saves for Hilliard, which is 23-20-4.
Later that day, Newark won the title, securing the championship with a 5-1 win over Dayton.
Hilliard now is preparing for the state tournament, known as the Buckeye Cup, that runs March 8-10 at Cincinnati Sports Plus.
The Wildcats, who are making their 12th consecutive state tournament appearance, are seeded sixth of 12 teams.
"We really have something to prove," coach Wade Bartley said. "We want to get some of our pride and respect back. We're in these games, but not winning."
In addition to the champions of the OSHL, the Cincinnati High School Hockey League and the North Coast High School Hockey League, the other teams ranked in the top 12 by USA Hockey qualified for the state tournament.
Hilliard opens the Buckeye Cup against seventh-seeded Westerville on March 8. Then on March 9, the Wildcats will face top-seeded Medina at 9 a.m. and 12th-seeded Camp Dennison Indian Hill at 4 p.m.
The semifinals and final will be played March 10.
Hilliard is 3-1 against Westerville this season, having won the last three meetings. The Wildcats are 1-0 against Indian Hill, having defeated the Rangers 7-3 on Sept. 29. They have yet to play Medina this season.
"Seventh is respectful," said Bartley, whose team went 1-2 at state last season. "We've seen most of these teams before. There's no surprises. It's not like we're going to another country to play. I'm expecting a big weekend out of us. Hopefully, the hardest-working weekend we've had. There should be no excuse and accept nothing other than that."