The Prowler Hockey Association club team went 2-1 in pool play in the state tournament but did not qualify for the semifinals.
The 12-team tournament, known as the Buckeye Cup, was held March 8-10 at Cincinnati Sports Plus.
Seeded 11th, PHA lost a tiebreaker to sixth-seeded Hilliard for the final spot in the semifinals. The Prowlers opened the tournament with a 10-2 loss to second-seeded Newark on March 8 before defeating fifth-seeded Wooster 2-1 and eighth-seeded North Coast 4-2 the next day to finish second in their pool.
"The first tiebreaker was total wins and Hilliard and us both had two and the second tiebreaker was fewest goals allowed," said coach Bob McElheney, whose team finished 14-25-8 overall. "Obviously, the wreck on Friday night put us behind the eight ball in that tiebreaker scenario. But I was very, very pleased with the way we finished an up-and-down season. We played our two best games of the season on Saturday. We were finally healthy and I think we showed that (last) weekend."
Newark defeated Hilliard 7-1 in one semifinal and top-seeded Medina beat the third-seeded Cincinnati Swords 4-3 in the other. Newark defeated Medina 4-3 in the championship game.
Having to replace 10 players lost to graduation after finishing 26-15-3 last season, the Prowlers struggled with consistency throughout the season. Injuries also hampered their progress, and they finished fifth (20 points, 8-12-4) in the seven-team Ohio Scholastic Hockey League behind champion Newark (41, 18-1-5).
"The good news is that we were young and will lose just four seniors that were with us at the end of the season," McElheney said. "That means we should have 16 guys back, including six of our top seven guys on offense and our top five guys on defense. We're already excited about next season."
The seniors are goaltender Spencer Jolley (Delaware Area Career Center), defenseman Travis Runyan (Pickerington North) and forwards Karson Stanley (Pickerington Central) and Peyton Strader (Grove City).
"Jolley had a good season and carried on the Prowlers' tradition of strong goalkeeping," McElheney said. "The other three were first-year varsity kids. Stanley was one of our most productive forwards and Strader was a third-line forward with a motor as big as anyone. He's a big, powerful kid, too. Runyan developed into an exceptional defender. His growth was remarkable."
Junior Cameron Bell (Reynoldsburg) is expected to take over in goal next season, according to McElheney.
Among the expected returnees at forward are juniors Chase Minor (North), Trevor Knoplesch (North), Tanner Sabau (North) and Paxton Waits (Licking Heights), sophomore Brandon Hux (Central) and freshman Kyle Mead (Canal Winchester).
Expected returnees on defense include juniors Logan Beckwith (Canal Winchester) and Garrett Bowers (Reynoldsburg), sophomore Sam Mills (Central) and freshmen Brandon Ley (Central) and Gino Palombaro (Bloom-Carroll).
"I think we have a lot of talent returning and we'll have 16 guys that already have jelled as teammates this year," McElheney said. "So we're all looking forward to next season."