Limiting sequences similar to what occurred during the second period of the district championship game likely will be used as a teaching tool for the Olentangy Liberty hockey team.

After the third-seeded Patriots took a 1-0 lead over fourth-seeded New Albany early in the second period on a goal by senior forward Korey Raymond, the Eagles scored three goals in the period.

Liberty made it 3-2 on another goal by Raymond with 32.8 seconds to go before New Albany scored an empty-net goal for a 4-2 victory and its first district title March 7 at OhioHealth Ice Haus.

"We just got a couple penalties and they ended up with those two power-play goals (late in the second period), which was the backbreaker," coach Kevin Alexander said. "We had 19 shots in the first period but had a terrible finish in the second period. If we can figure that out, we're going to have a hell of a team coming back next year."

Liberty finished 25-6-5-1 overall, including beating seventh-seeded Berlin 4-1 on Feb. 29 and sixth-seeded Orange 7-4 on March 1 to reach a fourth consecutive district final.

The Patriots were state semifinalists in 2017 and lost in district title games each of the past two seasons.

"We've worked hard every single practice just to get (to a district final)," sophomore forward Gage Schlotterbeck said. "It's a big team effort."

Liberty finished third (23 points, 10-3-3) in the CHC-Red Division behind Upper Arlington (31, 15-0-1) and St. Charles (24, 11-3-1-1).

Goaltender Andrew Vidrick (first-team all-CHC, first-team all-CHC-Red, honorable mention all-state), defenseman Keegan Pullins (first-team all-CHC, first-team all-CHC-Red) and Raymond (honorable mention all-CHC) are the biggest losses from an eight-player senior class. Raymond finished with 22 goals and 35 assists.

Defensemen Tim Casey (5 goals, 10 assists) and Max Turner (2 goals, 12 assists) and forwards Jake DiMantova (8 goals, 8 assists), Dane Hatfield (5 goals, 7 assists) and Aidan King (20 goals, 12 assists) also were key seniors.

Vidrick finished 14-6-5-1 with a .919 save percentage.

Schlotterbeck emerged as the team's biggest scoring threat, finishing with 41 goals and 28 assists to earn first-team all-CHC and first-team all-CHC-Red honors.

Junior forward Nik Jozefiak was honorable mention all-league, finishing with 23 goals and 29 assists.

Junior forward Ben Brown had 13 goals and 13 assists, sophomore forward Shane Flanagan had 11 goals and eight assists, junior forward Dylan Flesher had nine goals and five assists and freshman defenseman Carson Reynolds had nine goals and six assists.

Junior goaltender Andy Keeler went 11-0 with an .864 save percentage.

Junior forwards Max Lundquist, Isaac Moe and Landon Smith, junior defensemen Cameron Gresham and Andrew Minardi and sophomore forwards Drew Gaitten and Sully Plancon are others eligible to return.

"There's nothing better (than being in a district final)," Alexander said. "It's four years in a row for me and we're pretty happy to be here. The future's looking pretty good."

julrey@thisweeknews.com

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