With a roster of 20, sixth-year coach Mazin Habash has seen a competitive drive from his players on the Olentangy High School hockey team.
He said the Braves have a good mixture of experience and youth that will need to mesh if the team is to improve on its 8-22-0-1 record from last season.
"We have a good balance out there and this group is very competitive and challenging one another," Habash said. "Everyone is working hard and battling for ice time and making each other better."
Olentangy finished fourth (6 points, 3-14) in the Capital Hockey Conference-Blue Division last year behind champion Gahanna (19, 8-6-1-2). Gahanna has moved to the CHC-White and Thomas Worthington has replaced the Lions in the CHC-Blue.
Senior forward Dylan Ahonen led the Braves in scoring in CHC play a year ago with eight goals and seven assists. Ahonen is the captain and a fellow three-year letterwinner, senior defenseman Austin Moore, is the assistant captain.
"We had a lot of freshmen last year who are sophomores and who are much-improved," Moore said. "As a senior, I need to be a leader and make sure we play good defense and also score some goals."
Other seniors include Nathan Hershiser (forward), Jake Hetterscheidt (defenseman/forward), Josh Seemann (forward) and Vaughn Wallace (forward).
Junior goaltender Ryan Dop (.845 save percentage) shared time a year ago with senior Jake Fox, who did not return to the team. Sophomore Landon Diedrich also will see time in goal.
Also on the team are junior forward Vlad Neverov, sophomores Brian Brown (forward), Morgan Laubacher (forward), Nick Leidheiser (defenseman), Justin Miner (forward), Nick Rogers (defenseman), Nick Sansone (forward), Nick Scott (forward) and Christian Woogerd (defenseman) and freshmen Carter Conrad (defenseman), Ryan Loris (forward) and Nick Lawless (defenseman).
"We have some younger guys who are contributing and keeping us competitive," Habash said. "They have been a good breath of fresh air.
"Carter Conrad, a freshman, has been a huge help on defense and as a puck-handler, and Brian Brown is a sophomore but in his first year with us because he played AAA (travel) hockey last year. Another freshman, Nick Lawless, also looks promising for the future. When they are seniors, they are going to really be strong out there."
The Braves opened Nov. 23 by beating Worthington Kilbourne 2-1 in a CHC-Blue game at OhioHealth Ice Haus. Ahonen and Hetterscheidt scored and Dop made 26 saves.