Experienced forward lines and a seasoned defense will need to lead the Olentangy Liberty High School hockey team as its inexperienced goaltenders acclimate to varsity play.
The Patriots return two lines of forwards and four defensemen from a team that finished 28-9-3 overall last season after losing to Olentangy Orange 2-0 in a district semifinal. Liberty had a first-round bye before defeating Cincinnati Sycamore 10-0 in the second round and Olentangy 5-2 in the third round.
"I like the energy of this group (and) the way they come out of the gate," said coach Jack Hoogeveen, who is in his sixth season. "We have two very good lines up front. That would be our strength. We have talented goalies, but they don't have varsity experience, and I think we have more defensemen back than in the past."
Liberty finished second (12-4-1, 25 points) in the Capital Hockey Conference-Red Division last season behind Dublin Jerome (14-1-1-1, 30) and ahead of Cincinnati Moeller (10-4-1-2, 23), Dublin Coffman (10-6-1, 21) and St. Charles (9-8, 18). Upper Arlington, which won the CHC-White last season at 14-2-1 with 29 points, has changed places with St. Charles.
Junior forward Chris Bergamesca led Liberty in scoring last season with 26 goals and 39 assists, followed by sophomore forward Brock Rumbaugh (23, 36) and senior forward Ethan Hollingsworth (19, 17). Other top returning scorers are senior forward Kyle Horner (6, 12), junior defenseman Cole Bumpass (6, 9) and sophomore forward Jack Gainor (11, 4).
Bergamesca and Bumpass were first-team all-league last season.
Bergamesca and Hollings-worth are captains, while senior forward Noah Allmaras and Rumbaugh are assistant captains.
"We have been filling up the holes from the seniors from last year, and I like what we've seen so far," Bergamesca said. "Our offensive zone is pretty strong and we only lost one defender from last year, so we should be strong there. We'll be working to protect our inexperienced goalies since we're strong on defense. It's always tough to lose a goalie like we had in (2012 graduate) Eddie (Arcy)."
In addition to Bumpass, the returning defensemen are senior Cole Hutchinson, senior Gus Olmstead and junior Nick Kouskouris. Sophomore defenseman Ryan Gratz played at Thomas Worthington last year.
Taking over in goal will be senior Nick Krave and freshman Cam Perry. Krave is new to the program after playing club hockey in past seasons.
"We'll have to stress defensive zone coverage because we have some good, sound defensemen back," Hoogeveen said. "We're going to need a total commitment to our system and we're going to have to be more disciplined. That's been getting us into trouble. We need to play with more discipline.
"If they stick together and play as a team, they will be OK. It sounds redundant, but we have to play together."
Rounding out the roster are seniors Justin Rose (defenseman), Joe Schoettmer (forward) and John Tirrell (forward), junior Daniel Rosenberg (defenseman) and sophomores Zach Boll (forward) and Joe Bradish (forward).
The Patriots opened in the George DiPaolo Memorial Thanksgiving Tournament at Goggin Ice Center in Oxford. They defeated Oxford Talawanda 9-2 on Nov. 23 before losing to Cleveland St. Ignatius 3-2 and tying Mentor Lake Catholic at 4 on Nov. 24. Liberty lost to Toledo St. John's 3-1 on Nov. 25.