SPRINGFIELD TWP. – A change in home ice, which meant less practice time, has done little to slow the progress of St. Xavier High School’s hockey team.

The Bombers have made the move from the Cincinnati Gardens to Northland Ice Center, and they’ve done it quite well. St. X is currently in second place in the Southwest Ohio High School Hockey League Red Division at 7-1-1, and they’ll have a chance at a league title on Jan. 28 when they play Elder, the team currently in first place at 9-0-1.

The Bombers tied the Panthers earlier in the season, although this season St. X has shown an ability to achieve things it never had before on ice.

“The big thing for us,” said St. Xavier coach Kevin Taylor, “is we lost to Moeller by a score of 8-7 (earlier this season), but then we went up to Toledo and played them in a tournament. Our first game on a Friday night and we ended up beating them 5-3, which was the first time a St. X team has beaten Moeller in hockey at the varsity level.

“It was fantastic; it really felt like kind of a monkey was taken off our backs. Every time we’d played Moeller, they’d always beaten us, they’d always beaten us … now we don’t have to say that anymore. Now we know we can do it.”

There’s a confidence that generally comes with accomplishing anything for the first time. For Taylor, it’s already a season in which he feels like his team has outmatched expectations.

“I think they’ve over exceeded expectations,” said Taylor. “The great thing about our team is that we play as a team. We’ve got great balanced scoring across all three of our lines, and our defense has been solid top to bottom. We’ve got seven seniors on the team which really helps in the room … they provide that leadership, that ‘hey we’ve been here before’ (attitude). Just a real positive environment, that goes a long way.”

Senior co-captains Roppe Ketola, who’s originally from Finland, and Jacob Konerman have stood out as team leaders, said Taylor, while however unlikely it seems, St. X is led in scoring by a freshman.

“Noah Reidy, he’s our leading scorer,” Taylor said. “He’s a freshman and he just goes out there and plays 100 percent every single shift. He doesn’t give up; just goes like a little Energizer bunny. He makes things happen when he’s out there.”

Not only do the Bombers present problems in the offensive zone, they’ve proven quite capable on defense, too.

“Goaltending has been really solid,” said Taylor. “We only have the one goaltender, Bailey Hammons. He played (junior varsity) last year, only his second year playing. He’s got great reflexes.” Against conference opponents, Hammons has posted a 1.57 goal against average.

With what looks like a conference championship game looming against Elder, the Bombers are ecstatic for the opportunity.

“Elder has come a long way,” said Taylor. “Joe (Del Prince) has done a great job with that team. From the time he started with them, they struggled quite a bit and he’s turned it around, kept at it and kept at it, and they’re vying for a league championship. It’s fantastic for Elder and for hockey in the area in general.”

In their first meeting, a 1-1 tie, Taylor said, “We definitely tilted the ice towards them. I think we had over 40 shots on net — their goalie was hot. He came out and stood on his head. We threw everything at the net and were only able to get one by him.”

The Bombers have two league games remaining, 4 p.m., Jan. 28, against Elder, and Jan. 29 against Troy. St. X controls its own destiny. If they can win both it would guarantee at least a share of the conference championship.