When the season started, Liberty knew it would be competing for a championship — a title it wrapped up by finishing with a 12-1 record in league play en route to nabbing the Capital Hockey Conference co-championship with Dublin Jerome.
What the Patriots didn’t know, though, was just how high those championship aspirations would carry them. With the CHC title taken care of, and a Blue Jackets Cup championship under its belt, Liberty has its eyes on the sport’s top prize: a state championship.
First, though, The Patriots are headed to the District Championship, set to play familiar foe Jerome at 5 p.m. Saturday afternoon at the Dispatch Ice Haus. It will be their first trip to the finals in their four-year history.
The long road to the title game came to an end last weekend, when the squad downed rival Olentangy 5-3 Saturday and Dublin Coffman 3-0 Sunday.
Liberty was nearly flawless in the semi against Coffman, getting the game’s first goal from Jimmy Ruska, who powered the puck past the Shamrock goalie off a feed from Christopher Bergamesca toward the end of the opening period.
Defense was the story in the second as the Patriot defense killed a 5-on-3 ’Rock power play for well over a minute. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, Liberty allowed Coffman just two shots over the course of the entire period.
The offense boosted the margin to 2-0 over the span as a Marshall Oja centering pass deflected off a Coffman defender and found the back of the net.
Liberty went on to seal the deal in the third period, going up 3-0 less than two minutes in on a Kyle Horner to Bergamesca goal from the left corner.
Liberty goalie Eddie Arcy, meanwhile, preserved the shutout with a solid showing between the pipes, turning away a handful of good shots from the desperate Coffman club in the game’s final minutes. Arcy, who earned a standing ovation from the Patriot faithful, finished with 16 saves while the team improved its overall season mark to 26-8-1.
As mentioned, the Patriots now turn their sights to the Celtics, a group responsible for exactly a quarter of their losses this season. Jerome beat Liberty 4-2 Dec. 10 and 3-2 Feb. 4.
Tickets are now on sale for the District Championship showdown with Jerome. They can be purchased at Liberty High School or at the Ice Haus prior to the game. The winner of the contest will earn a trip to the State Final Four.