All things considered, Northeast club hockey coach Andrew Kieta is pleased with his team's season.
Despite losing three of their top expected returnees to the junior level and having their roster ravaged by injuries, the Storm produced as many victories as they did a year ago and returned to the state tournament, the Buckeye Cup.
Northeast finished 18-18-3 overall after going 18-21-2 a year ago.
"Considering we lost our top three players to juniors and sustained more injuries than in the past seven years combined, we did pretty well," said Kieta, who completed his second season leading the program. "We finished eighth in the state after being sixth last year so we're not satisfied, but I thought we did our best under the circumstances."
Northeast, which had 24 players representing 18 high schools appear in at least one game, did not have defenseman Jared Fee (New Albany) and forwards Sam Merriman (Johns-town) and Zach Turner (New Albany) this season. All three were key players last season but opted to play for the Wooster Oilers, a Junior A team, this winter.
The Storm placed fourth in the Greater Columbus High School Club Hockey League at 7-10-3 (17 points), behind Hilliard (15-3-2, 32), Newark (14-2-4, 32) and Westerville (12-7-1, 25) and ahead of PRPC (7-13, 14) and Athens (0-20, 0).
Newark won the GCHSCHL tournament, the Blue Jackets Cup, defeating Hilliard 2-0 in the final Feb. 24 at Chiller North. The winner of the double-elimination event and the next three teams in the final league standings qualified for state March 8-10 in Cincinnati.
In the 12-team Buckeye Cup, the Storm defeated West Chester Lakota West 6-1 on March 8 and lost to Painesville Riverside 7-0 and Liberty Township Lakota East 6-2 on March 9 in pool play to place eighth.
Hilliard advanced to the championship game, where it lost to Medina 3-1 on March 10.
"On the second day at state, we were without our captain, (Liberty Union senior) Matt Maldovan, and (New Albany junior) Ronnie Davies, who are two of our top forwards," Kieta said. "We also were without (Olentangy Liberty junior) defenseman Nick Gobora.
"We roughed up Lakota West in our opener and they had beaten us soundly in the (Midwest) Thanksgiving Classic (8-2 on Nov. 25). But we only dressed 11 healthy bodies for the second day (of the Buckeye Cup). Our injuries finally caught up to us."
Northeast loses seven seniors, including Maldovan, who was the team's second-leading scorer with 40 points (21 goals, 19 assists). He finished as the Storm's career leader in goals (76), assists (57) and points (133).
The other seniors were forwards Jeremy Ahonen (Worthington Christian), Damon Bass (Columbus Downtown), Nicholas Copeland (Olentangy Orange) and Sean Eden (Liberty Christian) and defensemen Nik Pettenski (Columbus Metro) and Kyle Priest (St. Charles).
Bass had 28 points (15 goals, 13 assists) and Eden had 26 (8 goals, 18 assists).
Among the expected returnees are Davies, Gobora, junior forwards Tony Black (Lancaster) and Travis Eden (Madison Christian), junior defenseman Tyler Gischel (Centerburg), sophomore forward Taylor Farthing (Bexley), sophomore defenseman Grant Reader (New Albany), sophomore goaltenders Jesse Nusbaum (New Albany) and Andrew Pettenski (Williamsport Westfall) and freshmen forwards Alex Harmon (Big Walnut) and Noah Mynes (Worthington Christian).
Farthing set single-season program records with 51 goals and 72 points and led the GCHSCHL in both categories.
"I think with what we have coming back and with the skill of a few guys moving up, we'll have a real good year next year," Farthing said. "We had quite a few guys take on new positions this year just to contribute, so maybe next year we'll be even better."
Davies and Gischel tied for the team lead in assists with 24 apiece. Davies, who also saw time as a defenseman, also had 10 goals for 34 points and Gischel added nine goals for 33 points. Black also had 33 points (13 goals, 20 assists), followed by Eden with 26 (10 goals, 16 assists), Mynes with 25 (9 goals, 16 assists), Gobora with 19 (7 goals, 12 assists) and Reader with 18 (3 goals and 15 assists).
Pettenski had 11 wins, making him the program's career leader in wins with 21, and an .887 save percentage. Nusbaum posted three shutouts and had a 2.77 goals-against average.