The Westerville club hockey team closed its season in the sport's elite event.

The Warcats competed in the 12-team state tournament, the Buckeye Cup, on March 8 and 9 at Sports Plus in Cincinnati, finishing 1-2 in pool play.

"It was a great experience and it's a great organization," said coach Jordan DiGiando, who completed his first season after being the junior varsity coach last winter. "It was definitely rewarding."

Seventh-seeded Westerville opened the Buckeye Cup with a 2-0 loss to Ohio Scholastic Hockey League rival and sixth-seeded Hilliard on March 8. The Warcats then lost to top-seeded Medina 5-1 on March 9 before closing their season with an 8-6 win over 12th-seeded Camp Dennison Indian Hill later that day to finish 22-24.

Senior forward Hunter Schlatterbeck (Westerville Central) scored against Medina while eight players had goals against Indian Hill.

"It was a good finish, (a) high-scoring game," DiGiando said. "I wish we would have scattered that out throughout the tournament."

Second-seeded Newark, the OSHL champion, went on to defeat Medina 4-3 in the final March 10 for its second consecutive state title.

The Warcats fell just short of the state tournament last season as they tied Massillon Jackson for the final berth, with Jackson earning the at-large spot because it defeated Westerville 3-1 during the regular season.

Senior Sean Coonfare, who attends Oakstone Academy, closed a stellar four-year career in goal for the Warcats.

"He was the benchmark of the program," said DiGiando, whose team loses eight players to graduation.

Other key offensive players were senior forward Benjamin Mannino (Westerville North) and junior forward Nicholas Frissora (Central).

Others eligible to return are juniors Jacob DeBella (goaltender, Westerville South), Payton Hilling (forward, North), Gabe Muccio (defenseman, Central) and Joshua South (defenseman, Central), sophomores Andrew Reisinger (defenseman, Central), Santo Scillia (forward, South) and Alex Snyder (forward, North) and freshmen Sedric Cowans (forward, Reynoldsburg) and Cullen Hassel (forward, Central).

"I'm excited for the future," DiGiando said. "We have a lot of talent that's starting to develop. Bigger bodies (are) what we need. These kids need to grow a little bit. That's OK, they're all moving towards it. We're young, but we have a lot of talent, a lot of speed (and) a lot of grit."

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekFrank