The St. Charles hockey team has been making adjustments on the fly.
The Cardinals started the season without two of their top senior forwards, forcing coach Rob Sangster to switch around the lines to find a winning combination.
The tinkering has paid off, as St. Charles is 19-7-3 overall and 10-3-1 in the CHC-Red Division.
"We lost Joe Kanowsky to a back injury and Trey Willis signed a baseball scholarship (to High Point in North Carolina) and they were left wingers on our top two lines," Sangster said. "We had to have other guys come in and take those spots.
"We would have been a much more veteran team with them back, but it also gave the younger guys a chance to play when they might not have played as much. We had to make adjustments and be successful with the new lines."
Through 27 games, forwards Marco Giambrone (18 goals, 14 assists) and Diego Pitones (23 goals, 15 assists) led the Cardinals in scoring.
"Unity has been a big part of it for us," said Pitones, a junior. "If we don't play together as a team or a family or if we are broken apart and play as individuals, we can't win. You have to play as a team.
"That's been proven throughout the year like in our losses to Upper Arlington (6-1 loss Dec. 7) and (Olentangy) Liberty (4-0 loss Jan. 2). We try to do too much separately. We have to play together."
The Cardinals played as a team Jan. 31 when they tied UA at 3 in CHC-Red play. The Golden Bears entered the game 30-0 overall and 12-0 in the league.
Giambrone, a senior, said the success has come from the connection the Cardinals have built off the ice.
"We're all really tight off the ice," he said. "We spent a lot of time (together) in the summer during weekends. We would get together and play soccer or football, and we had weekly (weightlifting) where we got to know one another. Working together on and off the ice really helped to build a tight bond that has reflected in our play."
Sangster said attention to detail has been the team's biggest improvement.
"It's a lot of the little things like being prepared for games, taking short, hard shifts, coming off the ice hard between shifts (and) finishing drills in practice," he said. "It's all of the little things that add up (to wins)."
Sangster also credits his team's defense for playing a large role in the success. Goaltenders John Martin (.900 save percentage) and Grant Wolf (.941) have played well, as have the team's other goalies in Copper Tyson (.904) and Lennon Aledia (.867).
"All four of our goalies have continued to improve and they gave us a chance," Sangster said. "I would say most nights, the majority of the team has done a good job defensively and our goalies have done a good job. If you do a good job of keeping goals down, you won't need a lot of goals to win."
Sangster said seniors Nick Currie (10 goals, 6 assists), Jack DeVita (11 goals, 11 assists) and Owen Zimmerman (7 goals, 10 assists) have helped out at forward, as have junior Niko Fallieras (9 goals, 7 assists) and sophomore Myles McKinney (14 goals, 10 assists).
"We have had different guys chipping in on goals," Sangster said.
"Diego and Marco have led us in goals and have been chipping in. We have two No. 1 lines and whoever plays the best is the No. 1 line. It's not anointed."
Basketball team preps for league showdown
The basketball team is 14-5 overall and 5-1 in the CCL entering a showdown Friday, Feb. 7, at DeSales, which leads the league at 6-1.
The Cardinals defeated host Hartley 39-38 in two overtimes Jan. 31, as Chase Walker's putback with 10 seconds left in the second extra period secured the win. Vic Searls led with 14 points.
On the same evening, Ready beat DeSales 57-47, handing the Stallions their first league loss.
DeSales won the first meeting with St. Charles 75-64 on Jan. 3.
The Cardinals increased their winning streak to nine with a 75-60 victory over Westland on Feb. 1.
Searls had 22 points, Doogie James scored 19, Jared Frey had 15 and Walker added 14.
Bowling team falls short of CCL title
The bowling team was unable to win its third consecutive CCL championship.
The Cardinals finished 6-2 in the league after defeating Hartley 2,045-1,976 on Jan. 31. Nick Bastaja led with a 396, followed by John Melliere (341), Vinnie Foresta (319) and Dino Colasurd (313).
DeSales defeated Ready 2,194-1,977 on Jan. 31 to secure the title at 7-1.
St. Charles finished the regular season 14-3 overall and 11-2 in the COHSBC-D.
Below are the coming schedules for the St. Charles basketball, hockey and swimming & diving teams:
*Feb. 7 -- At DeSales. The Cardinals lost to the Stallions 75-64 on Jan. 3.
Feb. 8 -- Home vs. Centennial
*Feb. 8 -- Olentangy Liberty at OhioHealth Ice Haus
*Feb. 9 -- Olentangy Berlin at OhioHealth Ice Haus
SWIMMING & DIVING
Feb. 8 --Division I sectional at Kenyon. The winner of each event and 27 at-large qualifiers in each event based on times from the Central, East and Southeast sectional sites advance to district Feb. 13 at Ohio State. There is no diving at sectional.