Whether because of their physical play or knack for scoring -- or both -- Sam Burns, Will Cohen and Tim Kramer think they make an ideal first line for the Upper Arlington hockey team.
The trio has combined for 82 goals and 97 assists for the Golden Bears, who are 31-0-1 overall, finished CHC play at 15-0-1 with 31 points to win the Red Division championship and were ranked second in the state last week.
But it was almost two months into the season before Burns, Cohen and Kramer began playing together on a regular basis, and even then illness and injuries were what prompted coach Brett Howden to make the change.
"We know our playing styles from being together in practice," said Burns, a center who has 29 goals and 32 assists. "Cohen has a great shot and great hands. Tim is fast and a great playmaker. It all goes together. I couldn't ask for better linemates. Coach puts us in a position to succeed."
Cohen, who plays right wing, leads the team in goals (31) and assists (34). Kramer, a left wing, has 22 goals and 31 assists.
Duncan MacDonald began the season on the first line with Cohen and Kramer. Burns was on the second line with Tristen Elmhurst and Max Robins, and moved up during the Mark Rasmus Memorial Tournament the third weekend of January in suburban Toledo.
"I've liked my lines the entire year, but this change bumped up our goal potential, our ability to score, that much more," Kramer said. "Individually, we're different. Cohen and Burns are shooters. Cohen can shoot from anywhere on the ice. Burns and I will go in the corner and knock the puck out and all of us can generate offense in the zone."
Howden admitted the line has exceeded expectations he called "elite."
"We knew, based on their skill levels and the fact that all three like to go in and get the puck and that they can distribute well, that it would work," Howden said. "It's hard for any of our opponents to play against. They'll get in on the forecheck and band and positionally, they're pretty good."
Burns, Cohen and Kramer said another factor in the line's success is its physical nature. Burns is 5-foot-11, 195 pounds, Cohen stands 5-11, 190 and Kramer is 5-7, 150.
"Burns and I bring a lot of size and we're willing to be physical," Cohen said. "We're quick, too. We bring a lot of different attributes."
A 3-all tie against St. Charles on Jan. 31 at OhioHealth Ice Haus cost UA a perfect regular season, but the Bears still are the top seed in this weekend's Blue Jackets Cup and found out their postseason path during the district tournament draw Feb. 12.
The Blue Jackets Cup, which UA has never won, begins Thursday, Feb. 13, when the Bears play eighth-seeded Cincinnati Moeller in the first round at the Ice Haus. The semifinals are Saturday, Feb. 15, and the final is Sunday, Feb. 16, at the Ice Haus.
"We're a really deep team. We have three or four lines that can go against any line in the state," Kramer said. "The mentality the entire season has been 'why stop now?' Every game, we've brought it. We've found ways to win."
Wrestlers advance to state team tourney
For the first time, the wrestling team will participate in the Division I state team tournament.
Seeded first in the 10-team Region 6 tournament Feb. 8 at Hilliard Darby, the Bears routed ninth-seeded Grove City 60-16 in a quarterfinal and fourth-seeded Pickerington North 65-6 in a semifinal before holding off Lancaster 38-30 in the final.
The Bears won eight matches against the Golden Gales, including the final bout of the day at heavyweight, when Rafe Lynd escaped a pin in the second period that would have decided the match and outlasted Jonah Davis 10-8 in overtime.
The state tournament is Sunday, Feb. 16, at Ohio State's St. John Arena.
"(Davis) was trying to work me as hard as I could and I was just trying to hold him off," Lynd said. "Throughout the middle weights, I had a feeling it could come down to me."
State brackets were not finalized at press time.
"Dual meets don't always go according to plan, but this one went mostly as scripted," coach Matt Stout said. "This is really exciting for the kids to be in that environment. To achieve this is awesome."
UA also is 3-1 in the OCC-Central entering its league finale Thursday, Feb. 13, at home against Westland.
Swimmers set for district meet
A large contingent of swimmers -- 17 boys and 15 girls -- will represent UA in the Division I district meet Thursday, Feb. 13, at Ohio State.
Led by Avery Voss' wins in the 50-yard freestyle (20.97) and 100 free (46.83) and a sweep of all three relays, the boys team scored 467 points to win its home sectional Feb. 8 ahead of runner-up Watterson (154) as 10 teams scored. Other individual winners were Jackson Gooding in the 100 backstroke (53.52), Hayden Jay in the 200 free (1:42.75), Grant Kennedy in the 100 butterfly (52.36) and Thomas Ray in the 500 free (4:46.34).
Erin Reardon's wins in the 200 free (1:55.5) and 500 free (5:12.62) led the girls team to first (467) at sectional ahead of runner-up Watterson (255) as 11 teams scored. Riley Huddleston won the 100 back (57.94) and the 200 free relay was first (1:36.9).
Jay (200 free) and the girls 200 free relay are top-seeded at district.
At district, the top two placers in each swimming event automatically advance to the state meet Feb. 21 and 22 at Branin Natatorium in Canton. In addition, 16 at-large state berths will be awarded for each swimming event based on times statewide.
The boys diving district meet was Feb. 12 at Ohio State and the girls meet is Feb. 13. The top six boys advanced to state Feb. 22 at Branin Natatorium, and the top four girls advance to state Feb. 20.
Boys team playing for league title
The boys basketball team's home game against Dublin Coffman on Friday, Feb. 14, will be for the OCC-Central championship.
UA remained in the league race with a 55-46 win at Marysville on Feb. 7 in which Max Buckley had 15 points, Quinn Corna scored 14 and Geoffrey Schoeny had 10 points and eight assists. That win knocked the Monarchs out of a first-place tie with the Shamrocks, who are 8-1.
UA and Marysville both are 7-2 in the league.
The Bears are 13-8 overall after a 70-60 win at Springfield on Feb. 8 in which Corna scored 19 points and Nick Heath added 15 points and six rebounds.
Coffman defeated UA in the team's first meeting Jan. 10 despite Buckley's game-high 26 points.
The Bears earned the 19th seed for the 49-team Division I district tournament and will visit 14th-seeded Canal Winchester in the first round Feb. 22.
Athletes announce college decisions
Fourteen student-athletes announced their college decisions Feb. 5.
Jesse Bowers will wrestle at Ashland, Sophie Croci will play field hockey at Rhodes, Eli D'Herete will play football at Bowdoin, Hunter Dean will compete in men's swimming at Catholic, Shaun DuPont will play football at Marietta, Julia Fidanza will compete in women's diving at Princeton, Joey Fowler will play women's lacrosse at Indianapolis, Matthew Green will play baseball at Marietta, Avery Kelley will compete in women's rowing at Adrian, Jake Leve will play baseball at Ashland, Sean McRae will play football at Alfred, Erin Reardon will compete in women's swimming at Kenyon, Demi Sauter will play softball at Ohio Northern and Chris Schweisthal will play football at Indiana Wesleyan.
Below are the coming schedules for the Upper Arlington girls basketball and wrestling teams:
Feb. 15 -- At 17th-seeded Dublin Scioto in first round of Division I district tournament. The winner plays host to 28th-seeded Olentangy in the second round Feb. 21. The Golden Bears are seeded 25th.
*Feb. 13 -- Home vs. Westland
Feb. 15 -- All-North Tournament at Dublin Jerome
Feb. 16 -- Division I state team tournament at St. John Arena
Feb. 19 -- Home vs. Olentangy Berlin