Knowing that nearly half of the roster from last season would be lost to graduation, Worthington Kilbourne High School hockey coach Tom Erlenbusch spent significant time last spring and summer recruiting players.

Knowing that nearly half of the roster from last season would be lost to graduation, Worthington Kilbourne High School hockey coach Tom Erlenbusch spent significant time last spring and summer recruiting players.

"We were pretty successful in our endeavors," said Erlenbusch, who began last season as an assistant under Jeff Eastman but took over last January when Eastman stepped down because of family and job conflicts.

Though Kilbourne's roster rose from 15 players last season to 18 this season, depth remains an issue. Consequently, the Wolves may have trouble improving on last season, in which they finished 9-21-1 overall and lost to Thomas Worthington 4-3 in overtime in a play-in game to the district tournament.

Kilbourne went 4-9 with eight points in the Capital Hockey Conference to place eighth behind Dublin Coffman (11-2, 22), St. Charles (10-2-1, 21), Dublin Jerome (10-3, 20), Olentangy Liberty (8-5, 16), Gahanna (7-5-0-1, 15), Upper Arlington (7-6, 14) and Thomas (6-6-0-1, 13) and ahead of DeSales (1-10-1-1, 4) and Dublin Scioto (0-13, 0).

Olentangy and Olentangy Orange have joined the CHC.

"The mindset is to truly learn the positions of hockey," Erlenbusch said. "We're working real hard to educate the boys on the game of hockey."

Kilbourne, which opens Friday with a non-league game against Olentangy in the Midwest Thanksgiving Classic at Chiller in Dublin, lost two of its top three scorers from a year ago in forwards Dan Petke and Andy Ballard as well as four-year starting goalie John Merrill and defenseman Ken Greim.

Petke led the team in goals (48) and points (69) and was second in assists (21) and was named first-team all-league. Ballard finished third on the team in goals (10), assists (9) and points (19).

Merrill was second-team all-CHC and Greim received honorable mention.

Kilbourne returns seven letterwinners in seniors Matt Ambrogi (forward), Matt Fischer (forward), Logan Fish (defenseman) and Trevor Whitaker (forward), juniors Jay Carter (forward), Kyle Downie (forward/defenseman) and Brett Taylor (defenseman/forward). Whitaker is recovering from a knee injury and may miss the start of the season, Erlenbusch said.

Fischer led the team in assists (28) and was second in goals (20) and points (48) and made honorable mention all-league.

Also on the team are juniors Chris Bryan (forward) and Mitch Oliver (defenseman), sophomores Matt Agner (defenseman), Joey Jacob (forward), Steven Singer (forward) and Connor Taylor (defenseman) and freshmen Jimmy Day (goalie), Perry Dilley (defenseman), Andrew Dowler (forward), Joe Fischer (goalie) and Hardijs Kupaks (forward).

One of the questions is how will Kilbourne make up for the offensive production it lost with the graduation of Petke.

"We would've liked to have had Dan for one more season," Erlenbusch said. "But life goes on. Instead of asking one player to try to (fill the scoring void), we'll be looking for one line to try to do it."

Erlenbusch said his top scoring line likely will be comprised of Fischer, Kupaks and Ambrogi, Downie or Jacob.

"We have a line and a half that can skate with anybody," Erlenbusch said. "The problem is we're not deep enough. It's the same problem we had last year. Last year we'd look good for a period or a period and a half, but then the kids would wear down."

An even bigger question entering preseason training camp was who would the Wolves have in net. Erlenbusch thought he had two experienced goalies lined up, only to see those plans fall through.

Knowing that the team needed a goalie, Joe Fischer volunteered.

"He kind of raised his hand and said, 'I'll play goalie, Coach,'" Erlenbusch said. "He hasn't played goalie in years, but quite frankly, he's exceeding all of our expectations."

Day was later added to the team, giving the Wolves a second goalie. Like Fischer, Day is relatively inexperienced at the position.

Erlenbusch will be looking for his defensive corps, led by Fish, to help out the goalie as much as possible.

"Defensively, we look pretty good," Erlenbusch said. "I think we've got a pretty good defense. The key is to block as many shots as we can and sweep the rebounds to the corners. (Fischer) is pretty solid on the first save."

Kilbourne also will play Mentor Lake Catholic on Friday and Whitehouse Anthony Wayne on Saturday in the Midwest Thanksgiving Classic. It opens league play Dec. 12 against UA at the Dispatch Ice Haus.

At a glance

•Coach: Tom Erlenbusch, second season

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

•Key players: Matt Ambrogi, Kyle Downie, Joe Fischer, Matt Fischer, Logan Fish and Trevor Whitaker