University-Columbus St. Charles state semifinal hockey capsule

Mar. 4—University vs. Columbus St. Charles

When: 4 p.m., March 8

Where: Nationwide Arena, 200 West Nationwide Blvd., Columbus

Records: University 35-3, Columbus St. Charles 24-11-3

What's next: The winner will advance to the state final at 1 p.m. March 10 against St. Ignatius or Toledo St. Francis.

What to look for: The shot that University has craved since falling in the 2023 state final to Olentangy Liberty is here. The Preppers have had the red-hot hockey to show for it pretty much all winter, with 35 wins to date. For perspective, when US captured its "triple crown" of the Red North, Baron Cup I and state title in 2008-09, that squad went 31-6-3. It's not to directly compare those two, but just goes to show how well this edition of the Preppers has played. ... The calling card for US is the thorough, selfless and persistent nature with which it plays, with three forward lines that produce, all three defensive pairings that can be heavily involved and standout goaltending. ... Not to sound like a broken record, but Sam Wade (54 goals, 35 assists, 89 points), Anthony Messina (17-21-38) and Luke Palmer (26-35-61) is one of the best first lines in Ohio. The second line of Luca Garofalo (19-25-44), Gavin Jones (17-17-34) and Sam Robinson (11-25-36) ensures there isn't a letup when that first line comes off the ice, and Patrick Corcoran (8-6-14), Ethan Roberts (7-5-12) and Mark Filippelli (9-7-16) is the epitome of a grinder third line that helps make US tick. ... On defense, Michael Matthews (2-15-17, plus-57) and Ryder Beegun (3-35-38, plus-61) set the right tone, one that trickles through each pairing on the blue line. ... Goaltender Noah Caballero (329 saves, 0.89 goals-against average) is a big-stage performer between the pipes, who will be served well by his experience at Nationwide a year ago. ... Awaiting in the frozen four is Columbus St. Charles, making its first state appearance since 2014. The Cardinals were a 4-2 winner over Liberty in the Columbus District final. Forward Sean Moore, who logged 20-15-35 in league play this season, and defenseman Tommy Scharfenberger were first-team all-Capital Hockey Conference. ... US prevailed Jan. 12 when the teams last met in a regular-season tuneup, 3-1, in Columbus, and is on a 12-game winning streak since its last loss, 1-0, to St. Ignatius in the Greater Ohio Hockey League tournament final Jan. 21 at Brooklyn. ... St. Charles will not go quietly, of course. But provided the Preppers operate with their usual backcheck efficiency, break out of their defensive zone as sharply as they normally do and are as locked in as they have been all winter, they should be a handful two wins away from their objective.