Dublin Scioto High School hockey coach Chad Ellis was thrilled to see his team easily handle the competition while going 4-0 to win the junior varsity division of the Midwest Thanksgiving Classic.

Dublin Scioto High School hockey coach Chad Ellis was thrilled to see his team easily handle the competition while going 4-0 to win the junior varsity division of the Midwest Thanksgiving Classic.

But the second-year coach was even more pleased with how competitive the Irish were in two Capital Hockey Conference losses to Cincinnati Moeller (2-0 on Dec. 2) and Dublin Jerome (4-1 on Dec. 4).

"Winning a trophy in the Thanksgiving tournament was a good way to start the season, and it gave us a real confidence boost," Ellis said. "The competition wasn't that tough, though, so it was even more satisfying to go and be real competitive with two of the better teams in our league in Moeller and Jerome. Those teams usually beat us by the (10-goal) mercy rule the past four years, so it felt good to be within a couple goals there at the end against both those teams."

Ellis said the Irish were able to win five of their first 12 games because of improved defensive play.

Scioto's defense is led by goaltender Chris Beatty along with defensemen Grant Noppenberger, Scott Carter, David Sneddon and Cody Rice.

"We've already almost won as many games as we won all of last year and that's mostly because we've been giving up less goals," said Ellis, whose squad finished 7-24 last season. "Chris Beatty has had some outstanding games, especially against Moeller and Jerome, and our defense is playing extremely well, too."

The Irish also displayed some offensive firepower while racking up 28 goals in the Midwest Thanksgiving Classic.

In a 6-4 win over Gahanna's j.v. team on Nov. 25, Zach Vallette scored four goals, Noppenberger had two goals and Reece Harter had two assists.

Then on Nov. 26, the Irish cruised to an 11-2 victory over Louisville (Ky.) Trinity on Nov. 26 and a 5-0 win over Cincinnati Sycamore's j.v. team before beating Strongsville's j.v. team 6-1 in the final on Nov. 27.

Through 10 games, Vallette had a team-best 18 goals and eight assists, Tate Bowen had eight assists and Harter had four goals.

"There wasn't a game where we were challenged much, and that shows our improvement because we were placed in the j.v. division based on how we played last year," Ellis said. "We're definitely a step ahead of where we finished last season."

•Despite losing 10 players from last season to graduation, including its No. 1 goaltender in Nathan Schuman and four of its top five defensemen, Coffman won five of its first nine games under first-year coach Eric Park.

Park was particularly pleased with a 3-1 win over Cincinnati Moeller in its CHC opener on Dec. 4.

But he pointed to losses to Jerome (5-3 on Nov. 27), Olentangy Liberty (2-1 on Dec. 10) and Gates Mills Gilmour Academy (4-1 on Dec. 11) as the Shamrocks' best efforts through nine games.

"We've beaten some good teams, and we've almost beaten some of the better teams in our area and maybe even the entire state," Park said. "We basically are working with last year's j.v. team, so steady improvement is our main focus. The good news is the kids are having fun and are learning a lot quickly. Hopefully, if we keep doing what we're doing, we'll start to win more of these closer games later in the season."

The Shamrocks are entering a challenging stretch in which they will play four games in three days in the Lakewood St. Edward Eagle Classic, which runs from Tuesday, Dec. 27, through Dec. 29 at Serpentini Arena. They then return home to compete in back-to-back CHC games against Upper Arlington on Dec. 30 at the OhioHealth Ice Haus and Watterson on Dec. 31 at Chiller Easton.

In the St. Edward Classic, Coffman will face Meadville (Pa.) Area Senior, St. Edward and Hunting Valley University School in the first two days and will play one other game on Dec. 29.

"Playing six games in five days is really going to put our depth to the test," Park said. "When we go up to Cleveland to play in that tournament, we're going to need to play at a different level every game because those teams are already playing at that next level."

The Shamrocks have received consistent scoring from their top forward line of Kevin Putnam, Gunner Gruehl and Kyle Marcinick. They've also gotten solid play from goalie Kyle Burich and Eric Gute has been their top defenseman.

"We need to find some secondary scoring behind Putnam's line because our next three lines have been pretty even after our top line," Park said. "Teams like Olentangy Liberty and Dublin Jerome can throw four lines at you, and their No. 4 line is just as good as their No. 1 line. But our kids are eager to learn every day and I think we've got the potential to develop more depth behind our leaders as we get deeper in the season."