Coach Tim Pennington knows where the credit lies with the success of his second-year Olentangy Berlin hockey program.
Led by their three seniors, the Bears have won nine consecutive games and already have surpassed last season's win total.
Berlin improved to 15-3 overall and 7-3 in the CHC-White Division with an 8-2 win over Columbus Academy on Jan. 12. Last year, the Bears finished 11-13-1-1 overall.
"We have a great group of seniors who have helped us in their own ways," Pennington said. "We have Andrew Rogers, who was our most experienced player last year, and Layne Comyns helped out the team by moving back to defenseman. Tanner Shimp didn't play hockey until last year, but learned the game and helped us out when we were low on players. They all have been crucial for us this year."
Rogers, a forward, is second on the team in scoring behind sophomore forward Carson Jankowski, who joined the Bears this season after having competed for a club program last winter. Through 17 games, Rogers had 12 goals and 15 assists, while Jankowski had 17 goals and 16 assists.
"Last year, I was looked to as someone to score a lot of goals, but this year I have a lot of teammates who can score, so I can be more of a playmaker," Rogers said. "That's what I've always been. I can move the puck a lot more.
"We're on a nine-game win streak right now and we have three full lines, which is nice. I think everyone is buying in now. (Last season), half of the kids wanted to be here and half of them didn't. This year, I think everyone wants to be here, and it shows."
Comyns is playing as a defenseman for the first time in his career after having been a forward.
"We needed defensemen, so coach Pennington asked me about it during summer league so I could get used to playing before the season started," said Comyns, who had six goals and one assist through 17 games. "It's a little different than before, but I'm getting used to it. Defensemen who have played there before are giving me pointers, too, and that helps a lot.
"I have never played (as a defenseman) before this year. There's a lot more skating back and forth and a lot of transitioning. I like how I can see the play, how it forms and when it changes. You watch the play happen."
Shimp, a forward, said Rogers talked him into coming out for the team last season and even supplied equipment to get him ready.
"I wasn't playing a winter sport so I decided to give it a try," Shimp said. "Playing something new always is fun because you start at the bottom and you can only improve. It was a new experience and a lot of fun.
"Last year, we were light on skaters so I was skating a lot more than this year. We picked up some kids so I'm not playing as much. We have good chemistry and we have improved skill-wise. My ice skills are little behind, but I can be a leader and keep the guys together."
Berlin will compete in Orange's Pioneer Classic that runs from Friday, Jan. 17, through Sunday, Jan. 19, at Chiller North. The Bears are seeking a third tournament championship, as they won titles in the Chiller Thanksgiving Classic held Nov. 29 through Dec. 1 at Chiller North and the Kent Roosevelt Rough Riders Tournament held Dec. 20-22 at Kent State.
"We're doing well and working as a team," Comyns said. "We know each other well and we get along, so we're doing well. We're working as a team and we have good chemistry."
Gymnasts place third in McGee Invitational
The gymnastics team finished third (138.125 points) in the McGee Invitational on Jan. 11 at Dublin Jerome, behind Thornville Sheridan (140.775) and Brunswick (139.45).
Megan McGuire and Olivia Boone both scored a 34.9 in the all-around to tie for eighth and Stephanie Balthaser was ninth with a 34.875 as Jerome's Raegan Ernst (36.75) won the title.
McGuire placed fourth on vault (9.1) and seventh on balance beam (8.7), Boone was fifth on beam (8.8) and sixth on floor (9.0) and Balthaser placed sixth on beam (8.175) and seventh on vault (9.0).
Butcher leads swimmers at Northeast Classic
Grace Butcher placed in two events to lead the girls swimming and diving team in the Northeast Classic on Jan. 11 at Branin Natatorium in Canton.
The senior and University of Houston commit finished fifth in the 100-yard breaststroke (1 minute, 5.01 seconds) and 13th in the 100 butterfly (58.47). Butcher also was a member of the 11th-place 200 medley relay (1:50.26) along with Callista Rousher, Audrey Butcher and Staci Nation.
Nation placed 22nd in the 100 freestyle (55.26) as the Bears finished 19th (30 points) behind champion New Albany (311.5) as 44 teams scored.
The boys team did not score.
Below are the coming schedules for the Berlin boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, gymnastics, hockey, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
*Jan. 17 -- At Dublin Scioto. The Bears lost to the Irish 41-22 on Dec. 6.
*Jan. 21 -- At Dublin Jerome. The Bears lost to the Celtics 54-39 on Dec. 13.
Jan. 22 -- Home vs. International
*Jan. 17 -- Home vs. Scioto. The Bears lost to the Irish 44-37 on Dec. 6.
*Jan. 21 -- Home vs. Jerome. The Bears defeated the Celtics 50-40 on Dec. 13.
*Jan. 21 -- Big Walnut at Delaware Lanes
Jan. 17 -- At Olentangy with *Hilliard Bradley, Hilliard Darby, Hilliard Davidson and Orange
Jan. 17 -- North Royalton in Pioneer Holiday Classic at Chiller North
Jan. 18 -- Mentor and Newark in Pioneer Holiday Classic
Jan. 19 -- TBD in Pioneer Holiday Classic
SWIMMING & DIVING
Jan. 17 -- Scioto at Dublin Recreation Center
Jan. 17-18 -- Alliance Top Gun Tournament