Second-year coach Rob Sangster hopes his St. Charles Preparatory School hockey team will work together and be prepared mentally for the rigors of the season.
The Cardinals won five of their first six games and split their first two Capital Hockey Conference contests after finishing 23-10-0-1 overall last season.
"One thing we have to prove is that we can be mentally prepared game in and game out to play at the highest level," Sangster said. "That would be an area that we have to work on. We have to prove that we consistently are mentally tough."
The Cardinals' offense has returned senior forward Daniel Schirtzinger (16 goals, 25 assists last season), senior forward Jacob Weikert (21, 13), junior forward Ryan Cleary (13, 19), junior forward Clayton Klosz (14, 8), junior forward Jack Cleary (7, 15), senior forward Mitch Wade (9, 11) and senior forward Max Howson (10, 7).
Senior goaltender Alex Ward is back after having a .937 save percentage.
"We have an older team, that's for sure," Sangster said. "We also have a lot of really good young players coming up as well."
The other seniors are defensemen Ryan Brady, Patrick Brennan, Elliot Cooke, Frankie Flynn and Alec Organ and forwards William Knudson and Logan Rupert.
Rounding out the roster are junior defenseman Nicolas Carducci and sophomores Aaron Bowman (forward), Sean Gavin (defenseman) and Aaron Roe (goalie).
"The strength of this team is that the players care about each other," Sangster said. "They have been together for a long time and play for each other."
Schirtzinger scored twice as St. Charles won its season and league opener Nov. 22, defeating Upper Arlington 4-1. Howson and Ryan Cleary also scored and Ward had 15 saves.
A day later, St. Charles lost to Dublin Jerome 4-1 as Brady scored and Ward had 29 saves.
In the Midwest Thanksgiving Classic at Chiller North, the Cardinals opened with an 8-5 win over Westerville on Nov. 29 before defeating Olentangy Liberty 4-2 and Oakville (Ontario) Abbey Park 5-3 on Nov. 30. They defeated Burlington (Ontario) Robert Bateman 2-1 for the Blue Division championship Dec. 1.