Dublin Scioto High School hockey coach Chad Ellis knows his team faces a major challenge this season after losing its only returning goaltender, sophomore Christian Rice, to season-ending shoulder surgery.
Last season, Rice had a 7-4 record with an .877 save percentage and a 4.00 goals-against average, as the Irish finished 12-18-1 overall.
Senior forward Fletcher Wentworth and junior defenseman Scott Carter are taking turns starting in goal, even though neither had any varsity experience playing the position prior to this season.
In addition to its goaltending crisis, Scioto must deal with low numbers. There are only 14 players on the roster, and two of those players, freshmen Will Hutras (defenseman) and Dan Schorr (forward), are playing the sport for the first time.
"Ideally, we would like to have about 20 guys on our varsity team, because when you're low on numbers, it puts you in a tight spot when you have someone injured or someone who can't play for other reasons," said Ellis, who is in his third season leading the program. "Losing Christian is really tough because it takes away from another position no matter who starts in place of him.
"Right now, we're trying to teach our guys to play smart positional hockey, because we need to avoid wearing ourselves out by being overaggressive or chasing the puck too much."
The Irish opened in the Midwest Thanksgiving Classic held Nov. 23-25 at Chiller North, going 1-3. They lost to Louisville (Ky.) Trinity 14-1 and the Northeast Storm 17-1 on Nov. 23 and lost to McKees Rocks (Pa.) Montour 9-1 on Nov. 24 before winning by forfeit against Whitehouse Anthony Wayne on Nov. 25.
Scioto begins Capital Hockey Conference-Blue Division play Friday, Nov. 30, against Watterson at Chiller Dublin.
Carter, senior forward Zach Vallette and junior forward Tate Bowen are serving as captains. Last season, Vallette had 33 goals and 22 assists, Bowen had 10 goals and 16 assists and Carter had six goals and 15 assists.
Other returnees are junior forward Jake Harter, junior defenseman David Sneddon, sophomore defenseman Cody Rice and sophomore forward Timothy Sizemore.
Rounding out the team are senior defenseman Bryant Tela, junior forward Vlad Borschev and freshman forwards Sam Lucas and Deon Moore.
"As a player, it's actually nice to get a lot of ice time because no one can complain about a lack of playing time," Vallette said. "Since we have such a small team, it's important that we all get along and work well together."
Scioto went 2-14 (4 points) in the CHC-Blue last season to place third, behind DeSales (9-6-0-1, 19) and Worthington Kilbourne (6-9-0-1, 13) and ahead of Watterson (0-14-0-2, 2).
The Irish lost to Kilbourne 4-2 in the first round of the Blue Jackets Cup consolation tournament and then lost to Cincinnati Sycamore 8-2 in the first round of the district tournament.
"We had 12 wins last year, which was one of our better seasons, so we want to continue to improve on that," Ellis said. "Everyone will get a lot of ice time, so we should have a lot of growth from every guy and become more competitive as the season goes on."