Despite losing 10 players to graduation, Dublin Jerome High School hockey coach Pat Murphy likes his team's depth this season.
Many of the graduates played key roles last season, as the Celtics went 30-10-1 overall, won their second consecutive Capital Hockey Conference-Red Division championship and captured their fifth Blue Jackets Cup title in the past seven seasons.
Among the players lost were forwards Matt Burke (17 goals, 18 assists) and John Henry Fischer (19 goals, 18 assists), goaltender Wes Faulkenberry and defensemen Connor Steiner (8 assists, plus-30), Brennan Stewart (4 goals, 7 assists, plus-32) and Matt Walters (4 goals, 11 assists, plus-28).
"We had some huge holes to fill in our lineup because we graduated 10 guys, including all three of our goalies and some of our best forwards and defensemen," said Murphy, who is in his ninth season leading the program. "But we were fortunate to have a couple AAA club players join our team and our (junior varsity) program fed our varsity team with quality players once again, and I think depth is actually going to be one of our strengths this season. We have seven quality defensemen and four solid forward lines, and I'm confident in our two new goaltenders even though they haven't played at this level before."
Jerome is 2-2 after competing in the Midwest Thanksgiving Classic held Nov. 23-25 at Chiller Dublin. The Celtics opened with a 6-0 win over Centerville on Nov. 23. They then defeated Sylvania Southview 14-0 and lost to Olentangy Orange 3-2 on Nov. 24 before losing to DeSales 3-1 on Nov. 25.
Jerome begins league play Saturday, Dec. 1, against Watterson at Chiller Dublin.
The Celtics have 13 returnees in senior forwards Alex Cathis (22 goals, 19 assists), Jeff Davison (19 goals, 14 assists), James Eastep (26 goals, 15 assists) and Tommy Parizek (11 goals, 18 assists), junior forwards Lucas Brush (2 goals, 8 assists), Jonathan Lelli (5 goals, 1 assist) and Chase Rose (5 goals, 10 assists), sophomore forwards Chris Cathis (4 goals, 3 assists) and Mitchell Coleman (4 goals, 5 assists), senior defensemen Eric Brooks (4 assists, plus-7), Sam Franklin (11 goals, 17 assists, plus-45) and Luke Potter (4 goals, 12 assists, plus-25) and sophomore defenseman Tom Pease (1 goal, 1 assist, plus-6).
Also on the team are senior Luke Pitroff (defenseman), juniors Alex Booth (forward), Shawn Ewert (goalie), Mitchell Hunt (defenseman), Joey Ryan (forward) and Colton Stewart (forward) and sophomores Daniel Dodson (forward), Connor Pitts (defenseman) and Connor Willette (goalie).
Pitroff and Willette are former AAA club players.
"We have a lot of team speed, some size and a lot of guys who can score goals," said Davison, the team's captain. "We look good individually, so the key is going to be whether we can play as one unit."
The Celtics went 14-1-1-1 (30 points) in the CHC-Red last season to finish ahead of Olentangy Liberty (12-4-1, 25), Cincinnati Moeller (10-4-1-2, 23), Coffman (10-6-1, 21) and St. Charles (9-8, 18).
Jerome went 3-0 in the Blue Jackets Cup a year ago, defeating DeSales 10-2, Upper Arlington 5-2 in a semifinal and Liberty 1-0 in the final.
The top seed in the district tournament, the Celtics beat Gahanna 8-2, Springboro 7-3 and sixth-seeded Coffman 4-0 before losing to fourth-seeded Orange 3-2 in four overtimes in the final.
"We've had some success locally in recent years and we're now looking to break through and make it to the state final four for the first time," Murphy said.