David James

March 10, 2011

[caption width="250" caption=" The Patriots celebrate after winning the Columbus District title. "][/caption]

Olentangy Liberty has one heck of a hockey family. That’s right, family.

The Patriots are a team, sure, but play more like a band of brothers, a trait that’s carried them all the way to their sport’s biggest stage — the OHSAA state final four.

“This group isn’t only a team, but a group of friends,” defenseman and captain Anthony Bergamesca, who has an actual sibling, younger brother Christopher, on the squad with him said. “We have accomplished everything on our check list so far … just one check to go, and that’s the state title.”

Fellow defenseman Keaton Allmaras, who also has a younger brother, Noah, contributing to the team’s success, said the bond between players is the Patriots’ biggest strength.

“We play well as a team and have great chemistry,” he said. “We’ve had lots of injuries this year, but we’ve had other players step up and take over. We don’t have any big egos, we just play together … we have great friendships on and off the ice and we respect each other.”

The squad’s already achieved what’s been tabbed the hat trick of Columbus District hockey, winning the Capital Hockey Conference Championship, the Columbus Blue Jackets Cup title and a district title thanks to last weekend’s thrilling 3-2 win over top-seeded Dublin Jerome in double overtime, avenging two earlier losses to the Celtics in the process. No CHC team had ever pulled off the trifecta until Liberty pulled it off this winter.

The Patriots have practically a lifetime’s worth of wins and superlatives to their credit this season alone. With an overall mark off 27-8-1 heading into this weekend’s Frozen Four, four Patriots (goalie Eddie Arcy, forward Jimmy Ruska and the Bergamesca brothers) have already been awarded first-team All-League honors, one (defenseman Alec Vidrick) earned second-team All-League recognition and another (forward Ethan Hollingsworth) was an honorable mention All-League contributor.

But to bring the ultimate prize back to Powell, Liberty has to collect two more wins, starting with Saturday’s state semifinal against Toledo St. Francis DeSales, the top seed out of the Sylvania District.

As impressive as Liberty’s been this year, St. Francis DeSales (32-4-1) has been just as good, dropping Toledo Whitmer 10-2 in a district quarterfinal and knocking off Findlay 6-3 in the semifinal before taking care of Toledo St. John’s Jesuit 7-4 in its district title tilt.

“St. Francis has three solid offensive lines and our defense will need to continue playing at the level we have been,” Anthony Bergamesca said. “We have been doing our homework and we can definitely win if we stick to Liberty hockey. We need to play smart, play as a team and face adversity positively. We need to be prepared.”

“St. Francis obviously has a great team,” Keaton Allmaras said. “They will be the best team we’ve played all year. To come out on top we will need to play our game, not theirs; we will need to keep the mistakes to a minimum as they are the type of team that will capitalize.”

The puck drops at noon Saturday at Nationwide Arena.