A 3-16-3 record isn’t what Prowler Hockey Association coach Bob McElheney hoped for entering December, but he thinks a 1-2-2 record in the Ohio Scholastic Hockey League might be more indicative of his team’s current direction.
“Quite frankly, this team is trending in the right direction. Our overall record isn’t spectacular, but by any measure we’ve had a significantly challenging schedule that is paying dividends,” said McElheney, who is in his fourth season. “I hope we are becoming a team people don’t want play. We’re not made of glass. We’ve taken it on the chin and gotten up and kept fighting. That’s important. We’re learning what we have to do to win and applying that.”
Senior forward Tanner Sabau, who attends Pickerington North, has 12 goals and four assists and junior forward Brandon Hux (Pickerington Central) has six goals and six assists.
The Prowlers, who lost 12 of their first 13 games, resume their schedule Friday, Dec. 6, with an OSHL game against Westerville at Chiller Easton.
Last season, PHA went 14-25-8 overall and 8-12-4 (20 points) in the league to place fifth behind champion Newark (41, 18-1-5).
In OSHL play, PHA defeated the Northeast Storm 5-1 on Nov. 22 at Chiller Easton after losses to Newark (8-5 on Oct. 31 at Lou and Gib Reese Ice Arena) and Dayton (7-4 on Nov. 10 at Chiller North) and ties against Westerville (3-all on Nov. 2 at Chiller North) and Hilliard (3-all on Nov. 16 at Chiller Dublin).
“We’re starting to get our special teams together. The power play is clicking and defensively, we’re getting better with breakouts and passes,” Sabau said. “I had a feeling coming into this season that I’d be leaned on to produce points. I think I’ve exceeded what I expected from myself. I wasn’t on the ice as much in the offseason as I was in the weight room, trying to get stronger and faster.”
According to McElheney, seniors Logan Beckwith (Canal Winchester), Garrett Bowers (Reynoldsburg) and Will Wenger (North) and sophomore Gianni Palombaro (Bloom-Carroll) have led the defensemen. Beckwith recently joined the team after helping the Indians’ football team to a 9-2 record and a Division II, Region 8 playoff berth.
Senior goaltender Cameron Bell (Reynoldsburg) and junior Drew Donahue (Grove City) have split time in net.
“It’s been pretty rotational. Both of them have come a long way,” McElheney said. “At the beginning of the year, that position was definitely one of our question marks. I am not sure there’s a position group on our team that’s grown more than our goalies. Right now, we don’t necessarily have a go-to guy.”
Rounding out the roster are seniors Tyler Comford (forward, Hilliard Darby), Ryan Ennis (forward, Hilliard Bradley), Trevor Knoplesch (forward, North), Xander Lufkin (forward, Grove City), Chase Minor (forward, North), Trenton Steele (forward, Bradley) and Paxton Waits (forward, Licking Heights), junior Sam Mills (defenseman, Central) and sophomores Jonathan Frush (forward, Grove City Christian), Ben Hayes (forward, Central), Brandon Ley (forward, Central) and Brady Sharp (defenseman, Amanda-Clearcreek).
McElheney already is talking to his team about placement for the state tournament, known as the Buckeye Cup, in March. The top 12 teams in the state according to myhockeyrankings.com make state, and the Prowlers were ranked 15th as of Nov. 27.
“We’re trying to figure out how we compare to other teams and already looking at some big games,” Sabau said. “There’s a lot of season left, but eventually, it’ll be crunch time to see whether we can get in (to the Buckeye Cup).”