Olentangy Liberty High School made history on Sunday, becoming the first Central Ohio high school to win the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) state championship, defeating Hunting Valley University School 6-2 for the title.
3x tournament champions, CHC Conference Champions, CBJ Cup Champions, Columbus District Champions, State Final 4 winners, 2023 STATE CHAMPIONS!! Most wins in the HISTORY OF Columbus 39-1-1. 1st EVER Columbus team to win the State Championship!!! Amazing!!! Etc!! pic.twitter.com/k2y9bI8Xco— Liberty Patriots Ice Hockey (@OLHSHockey) March 12, 2023
It's been a long time coming for Central Ohio hockey, which has been on the rise in terms of numbers and quality for years. But Olentangy Liberty did what no other local team has ever been able to accomplish, which is to defeat two northern titans back-to-back in the state semifinals and finals.
On Saturday, the Patriots defeated perennial powerhouse Cleveland St. Ignatius, who won four consecutive state titles between 2016-2019, by a 4-3 score. Sunday's game had much less drama, and it felt like Liberty was unchallenged by University School until it had already built a 4-0 lead.
The Olentangy Liberty Patriots have won their first ever high school hockey state title, defeating University School 6-2 pic.twitter.com/XA7wifE7J0— Ohio Hockey Digest (@hockey_ohio) March 12, 2023
The Patriots' list of accomplishments is staggering. Here's a sampling:
- They finished the season 39-1-1. Their last (and only) regulation loss came on November 27th to Cleveland St. Edwards, dropping their record to 5-1-0. They finished the season on a 34-0-1 record.
- Aside from winning the state championship, they also won the Adam Allgeyer Memorial Tournament, the Padua Holiday Tournament, the Walsh Jesuit MLK Tournament, and the CBJ Cup.
- They outscored their opponents 21-0 in the CBJ Cup.
- In league play, they went 16-0-0 and outscored their opponents 93-16.
- On their quest for a state title, the Patriots beat three top 10 teams in the state, per MyHockeyRankings: #9 (Upper Arlington), #1 (St. Ignatius), and #4 (University School).
In the championship game, as was the case all season, the Powell-based school was led by senior forward Charlie Hughes, who scored four goals (H/T Greg Revak for the below Twitter thread that does a great job capturing the game highlights). Hughes, who was recently named first-team all Capital Hockey Conference (CHC), paced the league with 23 goals and 16 assists.
Ohio High School final.— Greg Revak, CFP (@CoachRevak) March 12, 2023
A Columbus area team has never won the title and seems to be the favorite in the game.@OLHSHockey vs @MaroonBlackPuck
- Young talent that just won everything this season (35-1-1)
- Older experience thats been rolling as the season has worn on (29-8-1) pic.twitter.com/XU535lEk9e
But while there have been star players on plenty of Central Ohio high school teams in the past, what ultimately separated Liberty was their incredible depth. Fellow first-team all-CHC player Jacob Kempa led the way on the blueline. Fellow defender Jack Hamilton is a USHL draft pick and is a mismatch every time he steps on the ice. Goaltender Robbie Cook didn't need to be exceptional for much of the season but was more than competent. Vinny Rengel, Brian Savage, and Jake Struck were all-CHC honorable mentions. Others, like Andrew Leonard, Carson Reynolds, Eric Bauermeister, PJ Weiss, Jake Bachus, and others were instrumental in giving head coach Kevin Alexander a solution to every problem.
In 2019, Dublin Jerome made it to the state final, the first time that a Central Ohio team could boast even that. But their deflating 7-2 championship game loss to St. Ignatius was a stark reminder that, while this region could finally make it to the top of the heap, there was still a gap between them and the powerhouses from Toledo and Cleveland. Sunday changed the narrative and proved that Central Ohio high school hockey has arrived.