For Mazin Habash, the excitement of coaching his first team is rivaled only by the enthusiasm of the players at Olentangy High School, who are making history each time they take the ice.

For Mazin Habash, the excitement of coaching his first team is rivaled only by the enthusiasm of the players at Olentangy High School, who are making history each time they take the ice.

After years of involvement with club teams throughout central Ohio, the Braves finally have their own varsity program, and not a season too soon.

"I started playing hockey in third grade in Minnesota and always wanted to be one of those guys on the ice," junior defenseman Josh Allenstein said. "I think the school has done a great job to get the ball rolling, and we can finally represent our Olentangy out there."

There are 16 players on the roster, short of the typical number of 24 that make up most high school rosters. Despite a short bench, Olentangy is balanced. Forwards Ryan Herrmann, Tim Nelin and Sean Wright are powerful goal-scorers, and defenseman David Johnston rounds out the senior class.

Juniors Allenstein and Mike Lowery join goaltender A.J. Presas to anchor the defense, and a crop of sophomores includes forwards Connor Laughlin, Andrew Stegmann and Lars Vangen.

"We've got guys that really come from every playing level, which makes for a good mix," Habash said. "There's no question that playing with a short roster will present some challenges, but we've played in the exhibitions and managed just fine. There will be some games where a lot of guys see a lot of ice time, which is why we're trying to get in the best shape possible."

The Braves showed no signs of fatigue in their opening two scrimmages. Olentangy beat Toledo Central Catholic 5-3 on Nov. 8 and Dublin Scioto 15-3 on Nov. 15.

"So far, I've liked what I've seen in the games," Habash said. "We're nursing some injuries right now, but I truly feel that once we get the whole team out on the ice, we're going to be good. Our power play and forechecking are improving, and little by little, we're building as a team."

Olentangy has been placed in the Blue Division of the Capital Hockey Conference. It will compete against Dublin Jerome, Dublin Scioto, Olentangy Liberty, Thomas Worthington, and Upper Arlington. It will take on Worthington Kilbourne of the Jackets Division on Friday in the opening game of the Midwest Thanksgiving Classic at the Chiller in Dublin.

Habash doesn't want to set unrealistically high expectations, especially for a first-year team.

"When you transition from club to varsity, there are growing pains," Habash said.

"But were have talent and it's enough to get the program started and above .500. I think the message is going to be well-received."

For Allenstein and the other Braves, wearing the Olentangy uniform is unmatched.

"I know that every one of us will work as hard as we can, to the best of our ability," Allenstein said. "We're going to do absolutely everything to make this a memorable year."