Defense will be a key ingredient to early season success for the Worthington Kilbourne High School hockey team.
The Wolves have returned three defensemen and junior goaltender Jacob Eymann from a team that finished 19-15-1 overall last season after losing to Cincinnati Moeller 4-3 in the second round of the district tournament.
Also, a key member of last year's team has moved to defense.
"We have three good defensemen back in (seniors) D.J. Freer and Noah Veccia and (sophomore) Tanner Taylor, and (senior) Tucker Haas moved back to defense after being a forward last year," second-year coach Paul Roman said.
Kilbourne finished second (15 points, 7-9-1) in the Capital Hockey Conference-Blue Division last season behind Gahanna (19, 8-6-1-2), which has moved to the CHC-White and was replaced by Thomas Worthington.
Junior forward Mike Roman led the Wolves in scoring last season with 38 goals and 32 assists. Junior forward Ryan Agner (first-team CHC-Blue) had 30 goals and 25 assists, Haas had 21 goals and 18 assists and Freer (first-team CHC-Blue) had 16 goals and 23 assists.
"I think we're pretty strong defensively," Mike Roman said. "Last year we had a fresh goalie and now he is one of the strongest parts of our team."
Coach Roman said Agner and Mike Roman will be joined on first line by senior Will Givens, who played travel hockey until coming out for the team this season.
The second line will feature a rotation of seniors Scott Humes and Ben Piecenski, junior Kevin Schultz and freshman Collin McAllister, with juniors Johnny Mack and Tate VanArsdale joined on the third line by sophomore Luke Mills.
Freshman Chris Lickman also will see time in goal.
"Last year, we only had one goalie, so it's nice to have two," coach Roman said.
"We can use the whole ice instead of just turning around and using half of the ice, like playing half-court in basketball."
The Wolves opened Nov. 23 with a 2-1 loss to Olentangy in a CHC-Blue game before beating Beavercreek 9-7 on Nov. 24.
"Practices have just been an absolute pleasure," coach Roman said. "We can throw anything at these kids and they are so willing to do whatever we ask them. They're like sponges. We're really trying to teach them a lot more than playing winning hockey. We want them to also play for the love of the game and the love of their teammates."