Things appear to be looking up for the Gahanna Lincoln High School hockey team.

Things appear to be looking up for the Gahanna Lincoln High School hockey team.

Despite finishing 7-29-1 overall and last in the Capital Hockey Conference-White Division, first-year coach J.J. Stallsworth said he expects victories to come at a more frequent pace next season with the expected return of several key players, including four of the top five scorers.

"We'll have some skilled, young players back," he said after the Lions' 8-1 loss to top-seeded Dublin Jerome in the first round of the district tournament Feb. 18 at Chiller North. "Our (junior varsity) had a great season, too.

"I think there's a lot to look forward to."

Junior goaltender Nick Kasubinski, who was credited with all seven wins, also is expected to return. He'll play behind a defense that should feature junior Andy Yates and freshman Zach Chapman. Kasubinski, who posted a 4.43 goals-against average and .874 save percentage, also should receive more offensive support.

Junior forward Austin Hays led the team in goals (15), assists (12) and points (27), and sophomore Evan Kraus had 19 points with 14 goals and five assists. Freshman Skyy Goebel ranked fourth in points (15) and junior Jack Jander was fifth (13). Senior forward Sean Moser had 18 points with 10 goals and eight assists.

More help should be on the way from a j.v. team that captured the single-division CHC regular-season title and was 20-7-4 overall entering the state tournament held Feb. 24-26 near Cleveland.

The senior class was anchored by tri-captains Moser, Dom Palombaro and Ross Perry, the latter two of whom were defensemen.

"Come next year, it should be the start of a new beginning," Stallsworth said. "We'll miss the seniors, obviously, but we've got a nice group coming back and we'll bring in some new kids, some fresh faces. We're moving forward."

The Lions, who also are expected to return junior forwards Sam Derlis and Brandon Staneluis and junior defenseman Colin Smallwood, went 2-15 with four points in the CHC-White to finish fifth behind Upper Arlington (14-2-1, 29 points), Olentangy Orange (13-4, 26), Thomas Worthington (8-8-1, 17) and Olentangy (5-12, 10).

The Lions defeated Watterson of the CHC-Blue twice, including a 4-1 victory Feb. 10 in the Blue Jackets Cup consolation tournament. Gahanna, which lost 5-3 to Olentangy in the second round, also posted three non-league victories over Beavercreek, including a 7-0 win Jan. 14 in Strongsville's Walter Ehrnfelt Memorial Tournament and a 3-1 win Dec. 13 in Nationwide Arena.

Jerome won the CHC-Red title and also the Blue Jackets Cup championship tournament while DeSales finished first in the CHC-Blue. St. Charles of the CHC-Red won the Blue Jackets Cup consolation tournament.

"We played with them for 25 minutes," Stallsworth said of the tournament loss to Jerome, which had won the regular-season game 10-0 on Jan. 8. "I think the Jerome game showed we've already turned a corner."