Upper Arlington High School hockey coach Jay Graham concedes that this is one of the youngest and least experienced teams that he has had during his 10-year tenure, but that doesn't change his expectations.

Upper Arlington High School hockey coach Jay Graham concedes that this is one of the youngest and least experienced teams that he has had during his 10-year tenure, but that doesn't change his expectations.

"We always have high expectations," said Graham, whose team opens Friday with a non-league game against Dublin Jerome in the Midwest Thanksgiving Classic at Chiller North. "We want to be very competitive in the (Capital Hockey Conference) and we want to advance in the district (tournament) as far as we can.

"We have 13 new members. We're relatively young and inexperienced, but we certainly have talent. Hopefully, we'll smooth the rough edges and be a force to be reckoned with as the season goes along."

Graham liked what he saw from his team in its first two scrimmages despite the outcomes. UA lost to Toledo St. John's 4-2 on Nov. 14 and Sylvania Northview 3-0 on Nov. 15.

"I have real high hopes," he said. "Once we get everyone understanding the philosophy of the team -- we like to be physical -- and once everyone gets used to playing together, we'll be very difficult to beat."

UA finished 12-25-2 overall, its first losing season since 2002-03, and lost to Cincinnati Sycamore 5-2 in the first round of the district tournament, marking its earliest exit from the tournament since 2004. The Bears had won district championships in 2006 and 2007.

UA went 7-6 with 14 points in the CHC to place sixth behind Dublin Coffman (11-2, 22), St. Charles (10-2-1, 21), Jerome (10-3, 20), Olentangy Liberty (8-5, 16) and Gahanna (7-5-0-1, 15).

The Golden Bears finished ahead of Thomas Worthington (6-6-0-1, 13), Worthington Kilbourne (4-9, 8), DeSales (1-10-1-1, 4) and Dublin Scioto (0-13, 0). The Bears had won the CHC in 2006 and 2007.

Olentangy and Olentangy Orange have joined the CHC.

UA lost 10 players from a year ago to graduation, including forwards Nick Paraskos and Rudy Wesolek, defensemen Spence Linard and Zach Tulley and starting goalie Ian Ansel.

Paraskos led the Bears last season with 25 goals and 32 points and was named honorable mention all-league. Wesolek was second on the team in goals (12) and points (23) and tied with Tulley for the lead in assists (11) and made honorable mention all-league.

Tulley, who made second-team all-league, finished third in goals (10) and points (21) and Linard finished third in assists (10) and fourth in goals (eight) and points (18).

Ansel, who made honorable mention all-league last season, finished with a 10-23-1 record with a 3.56 goals-against average and an .870 save percentage and had three shutouts.

UA returns nine letterwinners in seniors Reid Greiner (forward) and Paul Teetor (forward), juniors James Baugh (forward), Drew Cook (goalie), Andrew Daehn (forward), Clay Hall (defenseman) and Austin Oberlin (defenseman) and sophomores Jack Sansbury (forward) and David Whalen (defenseman).

Another returning letterwinner could join the team soon. Senior forward Nick Galantowicz, who left the school district last school year only to return later, may not be eligible to play because of transfer rules set forth by the OHSAA. The OHSAA is scheduled to make its ruling Dec. 4, Graham said.

"We're awaiting their ruling," Graham said.

Galantowicz, who scored three goals in 13 games last season, certainly would help a team with few proven scorers. Daehn scored six goals last season and Baugh and Sansbury both scored four. Teetor had three goals in 13 games.

"Our scoring is going to come around once guys get used to playing with each other, once we shuffle the lines and get the right chemistry," Graham said. "Right now I'm not concerned about our offensive capabilities because our goaltending is superb. Drew Cook is a fantastic goalie. I'm very pleased with both of our goalies."

Cook went 2-2-1 last season with a 3.20 GAA and a .900 save percentage.

"With our defense being so young, it helps to know that we have reliable goaltending," Graham said. "We know that if we make a mistake, our goalies will bail us out."

Also on the team are senior Austin Swanson (goalie), juniors Ethan Burton (forward) and Trevor Setterlin (forward), sophomores Matt Lewis (forward), Neil McKenzie (forward) and Nate Rooney (defenseman) and freshmen Matt Beebe (forward), Spence Luallen (defenseman), Sam Stephensen (forward) and Evan Westfall (defenseman).

Junior Carlin Guthrie (forward) and freshman Max Collins (forward) also could see varsity action.

"The new guys bring a lot of speed and we've got decent size and a good skill set," Graham said. "We feel pretty good about where we are right now. The more experience we get, the better we will be.

"I think this year our talent level is a lot stronger. I think we can surprise quite a few teams."

Also in the Midwest Thanksgiving Classic, UA will play Strongsville on Friday and Burlington (Ontario) Nelson on Saturday at Chiller North. The Bears open league play Dec. 5 against Coffman at the Chiller in Dublin.

At a glance

•Coach: Jay Graham, 10th season

•Opener: Friday vs. Dublin Jerome in Midwest Thanksgiving Classic at Chiller North

•Key players: James Baugh, Drew Cook, Andrew Daehn, Reid Greiner, Jack Sansbury, Paul Teetor and David Whalen