Coach Tim Pennington expects the unexpected in the first season for the Olentangy Berlin High School hockey program.
The Bears won their inaugural game -- a 4-2 victory over Watterson on Nov. 17 at Chiller North in Capital Hockey Conference play -- but did not win in their next four contests. Then in a rematch with the Eagles, Berlin won 2-0 on Nov. 25 at Chiller Dublin to improve to 2-3-1 and finish fourth in the Red Division of the Chiller Thanksgiving Classic.
"I keep telling the kids that this season is going to be like whitewater rafting," said Pennington, who coached at Orange from 2008-15. "You're going to have some turbulent times, and we're going to have some smooth times. It's like parenting and it's like life. We'll get thrown out of the boat a few times, but we'll also have a lot of fun."
Pennington was 151-69-10-4 in seven seasons at Orange, guiding the Pioneers to two league championships and a district title. The inaugural 2008-09 season was rocky, going 8-18-1 overall and 2-14-0-1 in the CHC, but Pennington said that experience should help him at Berlin.
"I would say you learn a lot over the years in coaching, but it's the same thing (as Orange) in that you have no seniors so you're undermanned and undersized," he said. "We have good effort and attitude, which is key. If you give good effort and you have a good attitude, it can take you a lot of places."
Junior forwards Layne Comyns and Andrew Rogers are the only players with much varsity experience. Rogers started the past two seasons at Olentangy and Comyns played for the Braves last winter.
"It was rough to start out, I'm not going to lie," said Rogers, who has three goals and two assists. "Leaving my friends like that and coming over here was tough, and we're still getting to know each other.
"It's different. As sophomores you kind of looked up to the older guys, but now we have been thrown into the leadership roles. It's hard to get used to, but I think we're getting the hang of it and we'll keep going from there."
Freshman forward Zack Zielinski scored the Bears' first goal with 2 minutes, 25 seconds left in the first period of the opening win. Freshman goaltender Josh Chmielewski had 15 saves.
Zielinski has five goals and three assists, sophomore forward Cole Mascari has three goals and two assists, sophomore forward Chris Vogel has three goals and Comyns has two goals and one assist.
"We haven't had much time to work together, "Comyns said. "It was nice to get the first win because we will be playing with these guys for a long time since we have no seniors."
Juniors Tanner Shimp (forward) and Caleb Stevenson (forward), sophomores Wes Bobo (forward), Alex Cunningham (goalie), Brody Edgson (defenseman), Walter Maurer (defenseman) and Dan Neverov (defenseman) and freshmen Makar Borchshev (forward), Luke DeChristopher (defenseman) and Wade Vellky (defenseman) round out the roster.
"I think we have some skilled players that can put the puck in the net," Pennington said. "But I think it's going to take a while for them to learn the guys that they are playing with. We have some times we were moving the puck and the guys just stand there instead of moving to open areas. It takes a while to get the chemistry. We're like an expansion team."
Girls basketball team has versatile roster
Coach Megan Beidelman believes the girls basketball team will excel in its inaugural season thanks to her mentor, John Feasel.
Feasel coached the Olentangy girls program for 13 seasons before moving over to lead the boys team in 2016. He also coached Beidelman with the Braves until her graduation in 2012.
"I'm reaping the benefit of coach Feasel's program," said Beidelman, who played four seasons at Mount Vernon Nazarene and was an assistant at East Knox last fall. "That's what you get when you invest in the youth in the program and when the girls fall in love with the sport at a young age."
Junior Jess Nation led the Braves in scoring last season at 10.6 points per contest, earning honorable mention all-district in Division I and special mention in the OCC-Buckeye Division. The versatile 6-footer can play anywhere from the post to point guard.
Sophomore Courtney Suchan, a 5-10 guard/forward, also played at Olentangy last season and is another of the Bears' tall, versatile players. Berlin has seven players who are 5-8 or taller, although junior forward Shea Palmer (5-10) will miss the season with a knee injury.
"We have a lot of versatility," said Beidelman, whose team opens Friday, Nov. 30, at home against Dublin Jerome in OCC-Cardinal play. "It will be nice to have girls that can get the rebound and take the ball up in transition."
Juniors Meghan Boggess (5-10, guard), Haley Cera (5-4, guard), Kenzie Hinton (5-8, forward) and McKinley Hoffmann (5-7, guard) and sophomores Jenna Boucher (5-4, guard), Maddie Goodman (5-10, guard) and Gwynne Kiener (5-9, forward) round out the roster.
"They will do whatever we ask of them," said Beidelman, whose team will play in Division II in the postseason. "We started tough (in workouts) to see what they were made of, but they came to work every day.
"We had four scrimmages and I was anxious going into them. I wasn't sure what to expect or where the confidence would be when they stepped on the court, but they have been doing well."
*Nov. 30 -- vs. Dublin Jerome
*Dec. 4 -- at Delaware
*Dec. 7 -- vs. Dublin Scioto
Dec. 8 -- vs. Watterson
Dec. 11 -- at New Albany
*Dec. 14 -- at Hilliard Bradley
*Dec. 21 -- at Hilliard Darby
Dec. 29 -- at Bexley
*Jan. 4 -- vs. Thomas Worthington
Jan. 5 -- vs. Grandview
*Jan. 8 -- at Worthington Kilbourne
*Jan. 11 -- vs. Delaware
Jan. 15 -- vs. Westerville Central
*Jan. 18 -- at Dublin Scioto
Jan. 19 -- vs. Horizon Science
*Jan. 22 -- at Dublin Jerome
*Jan. 25 -- vs. Hilliard Bradley
*Feb. 1 -- at Thomas Worthington
Feb. 2 -- at Westerville North
*Feb. 5 -- vs. Hilliard Darby
*Feb. 8 -- vs. Worthington Kilbourne
Feb. 16 -- at Cardington
*Nov. 17 -- Watterson at Chiller North
*Nov. 18 -- Thomas Worthington at Chiller North
Nov. 23 -- Cleveland Heights in Chiller Thanksgiving Classic at Chiller Dublin
Nov. 24 -- Olentangy and Centerville in Chiller Thanksgiving Classic at Chiller Dublin
Nov. 25 -- Watterson in Chiller Thanksgiving Classic at Chiller Dublin
*Dec. 7 -- Dublin Scioto at Chiller North
*Dec. 9 -- Dublin Coffman at Chiller Dublin
Dec. 14 -- Oxford Talawanda in Kent Roosevelt Rough Riders Tournament at Kent State
Dec. 15 -- Kent Roosevelt and Hudson Western Reserve in Kent Roosevelt Rough Riders Tournament at Kent State
Dec. 16 -- TBA in Kent Roosevelt Rough Riders Tournament at Kent State
*Dec. 19 -- Olentangy Orange at Chiller North
*Dec. 22 -- Columbus Academy at Chiller North
*Dec. 23 -- Gahanna at Chiller Easton
*Jan. 5 -- DeSales at Chiller North
*Jan. 11 -- Olentangy at Chiller Easton
*Jan. 12 -- Thomas Worthington at Chiller North
*Jan. 13 -- Gahanna at Chiller North
Jan. 18-20 -- Orange Pioneer Holiday Classic
*Jan. 26 -- DeSales at Chiller Easton
*Jan. 27 -- Dublin Scioto at Chiller Dublin
*Feb. 1 -- Springboro at Chiller North
*Feb. 2 -- Columbus Academy at Chiller Easton
Below are the coming schedules for the Berlin boys basketball, bowling and swimming & diving teams:
Nov. 29 -- Home vs. Caledonia River Valley
*Dec. 4 -- At Dublin Jerome
*Dec. 4 -- Olentangy Liberty at Sawmill Lanes
*Dec. 5 -- Westerville Central at Delaware Lanes
SWIMMING & DIVING
Dec. 1 -- Athens Invitational at Ohio University