Even though the Westerville club hockey team has started 1-7-2 overall and 1-4-2 in the Greater Columbus High School Club Hockey League, North junior forward Nick Orioli said the Warcats aren't close to panicking.

Even though the Westerville club hockey team has started 1-7-2 overall and 1-4-2 in the Greater Columbus High School Club Hockey League, North junior forward Nick Orioli said the Warcats aren't close to panicking.

After all, Westerville has had to replace 10 graduates, including the top five scorers from last season's team.

Senior defenseman Brendan Kremer also chose not to return to the team after the Warcats finished 24-8-11 overall and captured their first GCHSCHL championship last season.

In addition to those losses, South senior defenseman Jacob Hardy (broken foot Nov. 21) and North freshman defenseman Travis Furman (broken collarbone Nov. 22) are expected to miss most or all of the remainder of the regular season. Also, North junior forward Luke Ewing (broken collarbone) isn't expected to make his regular-season debut until January.

"No one's too worried about our slow start because we have a much younger team than we had last year, and we knew it was going to take some time for all of the new faces to get used to playing together," Orioli said. "We're already playing with a lot of intensity and we're improving each game. We feel confident that it's just a matter of time before we start winning more games than we're losing."

Westerville dropped its first four GCHSCL contests, losing to Dayton 8-2 on Nov. 1, Newark 5-0 on Nov. 6, Hilliard 5-4 on Nov. 8 and Northeast 5-2 on Nov. 14 before tying PHA at 3 on Nov. 15.

In their following two GCHSCL contests, the Warcats tied Newark at 2 on Nov. 21 and defeated Athens 8-4 on Nov. 22.

"We knew a slow start was possible because we lost a lot of seniors and having these early injuries hasn't helped either," second-year coach Brad Bloomberg said. "We don't have as much skill or experience this year, but our young guys are learning our system quickly. I think we're going to be a much different team during the second half of the season."

The top returnees are Hardy (2 goals, 10 assists last season), Orioli, South senior defenseman Vincent Murdock (7 goals, 19 assists), Central senior forward Nathan Thatcher and Central sophomore goaltender Parker Rodgers (5-2-5 record, .863 save percentage, 3.14 goals-against-average).

Also playing forward are Central senior Nathan Thatcher, Central sophomores Hunter Fortin and Evan Ingram, North senior Connor Thompson, North juniors Ewing and Nicholas Stocker, North sophomores Evan Garber, Nick Olson and Cole Siemer, South sophomore Victor Runyon and South freshman Ryan Butler.

Other defensemen are Jonathan Alder junior Greg Bowman, North junior Russell Batchelder, Central sophomores Nicholas Gereg and Nathan Vititoe and North freshmen Furman and Jack Larimer.

The other goalies are Big Walnut senior Jerry Gaydos and South junior Cole Thomas.

The Warcats won the league title last year with 31 points and a 12-1-7 record. They went 1-2 in the Blue Jackets Cup and 2-0-1 in pool play in the 12-team state tournament, the Buckeye Cup, before losing to North Royalton 2-1 in a semifinal.

"Our goals are to win our league and make it back to the state tournament even though we're a little bit behind right now," Bloomberg said. "We have the talent. We just have to put it all together."

Schedule

Oct. 24 -- Markham (Ontario) Islanders at New Kensington Ice Arena in Pittsburgh

Oct. 25 -- Wheeling (W.Va.) Linsly and Pittsburgh Predators at New Kensington Ice Arena

*Nov. 1 -- Dayton at Chiller Springfield

*Nov. 6 -- Newark at Lou & Gib Ice Arena

*Nov. 8 -- Hilliard at Chiller Easton

*Nov. 14 -- Northeast at Chiller Easton

*Nov. 15 -- PHA at Chiller North

*Nov. 21 -- Newark at Chiller North

*Nov. 22 -- Athens at Chiller Ice Works

Nov. 28 -- Worthington Kilbourne in Midwest Thanksgiving Classic at Chiller North

Nov. 29 -- Owensboro (Ky.) and Oregon Clay in Midwest Thanksgiving Classic at Chiller North

Nov. 30 -- TBA in Midwest Thanksgiving Classic at Chiller North

*Dec. 7 -- Northeast at Chiller North

*Dec. 12 -- Northeast at OhioHealth Ice Haus

*Dec. 14 -- PHA at Chiller Ice Works

*Dec. 19 -- Athens at Bird Arena

*Dec. 26 -- Athens at Chiller North

*Dec. 27 -- Dayton at Chiller North

*Jan. 3 -- Dayton at OhioHealth Ice Haus

*Jan. 4 -- PHA at OhioHealth Ice Haus

*Jan. 9 -- Northeast at Fairgrounds Coliseum

*Jan. 10 -- Athens at Bird Arena

*Jan. 11 -- Hilliard at Chiller Ice Works

*Jan. 23 -- Hilliard at Chiller North

*Jan. 29 -- Newark at Lou & Gib Ice Arena

*Jan. 31 -- Newark at OhioHealth Ice Haus

*Feb. 6 -- Hilliard at Fairgrounds Coliseum

*Feb. 7 -- Dayton at Kettering Ice Arena

*Feb. 13 -- PHA Prowlers at Chiller Easton

*League contest