The Hilliard club hockey team won two of its three games in pool play in the 12-team state tournament held March 6-8 at OBM Arena in Strongsville, but it wasn't enough to advance to the semifinals.
Appearing in their 12th consecutive state tournament, known as the Buckeye Cup, the fourth-seeded Wildcats defeated the ninth-seeded Cleveland Wildcats 3-2 in a shootout March 6 and the 10th-seeded North Royalton Bears 7-6 in a shootout March 7 before losing to one of their Ohio Scholastic Hockey League rivals, the third-seeded Dayton Stealth, 5-2 later that day in what coach Wade Bartley called a must-win situation.
"We found a way (to win) in the two games previous (against Cleveland and North Royalton)," said Bartley, whose team finished 25-17-4 overall. "Good teams do find a way get through and find a way to win. We had a couple of great opportunities, a couple of posts against Dayton. The momentum shifted. Two emotional games took its toll on some guys, but they played hard right to the end. We're proud of their efforts."
Against Dayton, senior forwards Kaeden Boyd (Ready) and John Pastirzyk (Fairbanks) each scored, senior forward Marcus Cornett II (St. Paris Graham) had two assists and freshman goaltender Mason Sines (Fairbanks) had 31 saves.
"I hope they remember how close they were to moving on," Bartley said. "I hope they strive to get at least to the (state semifinals)."
Hilliard won the OSHL tournament, known as the Blue Jackets Cup, beating the Northeast Storm 7-2 in the final Feb. 23. The Wildcats' only other league tournament title came in the 2010-11 season.
Hilliard went 12-4-2 with 26 points in the OSHL to finish second behind Newark (32, 15-1-2).
Junior forward Will Kididis (Bradley) led the Wildcats in scoring with 39 goals and 29 assists for 68 points. Junior forward James Schwinne III (Central Crossing) had 29 goals and 33 assists for 62 points and Cornett had 21 goals and 28 assists for 49 points.
Other players eligible to return are juniors Sammy Delio (forward, Davidson), Owen Forchione (forward, Davidson), Jaxson Gillespie (forward, Darby), A.J. Lightfoot (forward, Darby) and Jesse Stevens (forward, Grove City), sophomores Hayden Clingman (defenseman, Bradley) and Caleb Fifolt (defenseman, Davidson) and freshmen Tim Elmer (defenseman, Davidson) and Andrew Wagenhauser (defenseman, Bradley).