As the opener approaches, the Olentangy Orange High School hockey team isn't focused on goals or expectations. It already achieved its biggest accomplishment when it created a varsity program.

As the opener approaches, the Olentangy Orange High School hockey team isn't focused on goals or expectations. It already achieved its biggest accomplishment when it created a varsity program.

Pioneers is a fitting mascot for the players, coaches, parents and administration at Orange, all of whom collaborated on an extensive effort to bring hockey to the first-year school.

Orange will open Friday against Akron Hoban in the Midwest Thanksgiving Classic at the Chiller in Dublin. It will begin Capital Hockey Conference play against Thomas Worthington on Dec. 19.

"They're all excited about it," coach Tim Pennington said. "Being the first ones to play for their school has really inspired them. Every new piece of equipment is another new thing for them that they're excited about, and every day brings something different."

Orange held initial tryouts earlier last spring and finalized its roster with official tryouts the first week of November. So far, the biggest effort has been off the ice, spreading the word at the school and in the community.

"I would say that people take pride in the hockey team," sophomore forward Jimmy Lomeo said. "We're getting schedules posted and making people aware. It's a great improvement to get more and more people involved, and a big step for all hockey fans."

Pennington has had hockey success in central Ohio. Last season, his Olentangy club team won the Blue Jackets Cup for the first time. Four players on the Orange roster -- Clayton Anderson, Matt Pennington, Mark Pytlik and Alex Titus -- were on that team.

As expected for a new school, the Pioneers are young, which bodes well for the future of the program. Anderson and Pytlik are the only juniors on a team with seven sophomores and nine freshmen.

Matt Pennington, Pytlik and Titus anchor the defense along with freshman Jacob Green. The Pioneers are stocked with forwards, as freshmen Dar Faroughi, Taylor Hardy, Nick Murley, Jon Peddicord, Kevin Peters and Jake Shepard join sophomores Lomeo, Scott Bowers, Robbie Lindeman, Adam McHugh and Zach Skeen.

Pennington said two sophomores, Evan Maldonado and Alex Victor, will compete for playing time in goal.

An established varsity has piqued the interest of middle-schoolers also, with several seventh- and eighth-graders coming up through the program.

"We're young, but that's never going to be used as an excuse," Lomeo said. "This team is gong to try our best. Hard work can make up for youth, and if we do that there's no reason why we can't win now."

"You know my expectations are the same every year for any team that I've ever coached -- attitude and effort," Pennington said. "If we do that, things will fall into place from there."