The Hilliard club hockey team has its sights set on a 13th consecutive state tournament berth.

The Wildcats are hoping to advance to the 12-team tournament, known as the Buckeye Cup, which will be held March 6-8 in Cleveland.

Last season, Hilliard advanced to a semifinal before losing to eventual champion Newark 7-1 on March 10 to finish 25-22-4.

The Wildcats were ranked fifth in the USA Hockey state rankings released Feb. 13 on myhockeyrankings.com. The rankings are used to determine which teams qualify for the state tournament.

"It's pretty amazing," coach Wade Bartley said of his team's consecutive state tournament appearance streak. "It's a good feeling. This is what you work for."

Hilliard will compete in the seven-team Ohio Scholastic Hockey League tournament, known as the Blue Jackets Cup. The event runs Friday, Feb. 21, through Sunday, Feb. 23, with games being held at various area rinks. The final will be played Feb. 23 at Chiller North.

Hilliard is seeded second and will face seventh-seeded Athens in the opening round Feb. 21 at Chiller Easton. The Wildcats swept the regular-season series with Athens, winning 10-0 on Nov. 15, 9-0 on Dec. 6 and 12-0 on Feb. 8.

Hilliard was 19-14-4 overall before competing in the Big Bear Tournament held Feb. 15-17 in Indianapolis.

The Wildcats finished 12-4-2 (26 points) in the OSHL after losing to regular-season champion Newark 6-3 on Feb. 13 at Lou and Gib Ice Arena. The Generals, who went 15-1-2 (32) in league play, are the top seed in the Blue Jackets Cup.

Newark was second in the USA Hockey state rankings, behind the Cincinnati Swords.

Hilliard, which lost all three regular-season meetings with the Generals, could face the league's top team two more times this season. The teams could meet in the Blue Jackets Cup final as well as in the Buckeye Cup.

"(The Generals) have a lot of speed and they're a strong defensive team, and we have a pretty strong, high-powered team, so it could be good battles," Bartley said. "I want to play them as much as I can. They're the best team and we want to show that we can compete and play at that level."

The loss to Newark snapped a two-game winning streak. Hilliard defeated Athens 12-0 on Feb. 8 at Chiller Dublin and Westerville 6-1 on Feb. 9 at Chiller North.

Kaeden Boyd, Jaxson Gillespie and Will Kididis each scored two goals and goaltender Mason Sines had 11 saves against the Bobcats, while Marcus Cornett had two goals and goalie Camden Hanson had 27 saves against the Warcats.

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekFrank