Hilliard club hockey coach Wade Bartley is quick to admit he's not trying to reinvent the wheel in his first season with the Wildcats.

Hilliard club hockey coach Wade Bartley is quick to admit he's not trying to reinvent the wheel in his first season with the Wildcats.

But the small tweaks he's made are creating positive ripples throughout the team, which won its first eight games this season on the heels of winning the Greater Columbus High School Club Hockey League postseason championship a year ago.

"We're practicing at 5:45 Wednesday mornings now instead of at night, and not only does that create a new routine, but it creates discipline," Bradley senior center and captain Aaron Applegarth said. "We definitely can see that discipline on the ice. If we bring that attitude to every game, it creates consistency and that can only help us."

Thriving off an experienced roster that consists of nine seniors, eight juniors and three sophomores, the Wildcats have reasserted themselves as a force in the area. They were 8-1 overall and 6-1 in the GCHSCHL before playing Athens on Nov. 19.

"We're winning the one-on-one battles, we're winning in the corners and getting in good position to do good things," said Darby junior forward Kyle Majher, who scored 14 goals last year and had a team-leading 12 goals through nine games. "Every line we have is a threat. We're a pretty deep team."

Applegarth had seven goals and Davidson junior forward Kenyon Clevenger had six through nine games, during which the Wildcats outscored their opponents 52-14.

"I think we're playing well every practice, every game," Bartley said. "Right from the start, I've seen the kids we have on both varsity and junior varsity going all out and doing great. They've more than met my expectations. We're more defensive-minded. We must bring that style into our zone. We threw in a new power play that's been successful. I think our forecheck has been better. Hard work is big for me. Everyone needs to be accountable on and off the ice."

Bartley replaced Mark Mead, who coached the Wildcats for one season. Under Mead, Hilliard finished 24-13-4 overall and 14-7-3 (31 points) in the GCHSCHL. The Wildcats tied Northeast for second in the league behind PRPC (15-7-2, 32) and ahead of Newark (12-11-1, 25), Athens (11-10-3, 25), Westerville (11-11-2, 24) and Delaware (0-24, 0).

Delaware is not fielding a team this season.

Hilliard defeated Northeast 6-3 in the league's Blue Jackets Cup championship game. The Storm went on to win the Buckeye Cup state championship, defeating Newark 2-1 in the final to become the third GCHSCHL team in four years to win the state title.

It was Newark that handed Hilliard its first loss this season, 2-0 on Nov. 17. The Generals scored twice in a nine-second span against Davidson sophomore goaltender Mack Burton, overcoming four power plays the Wildcats were able to kill.

Hilliard's top forward line most of this season has consisted of Majher and Darby seniors Drew Kennedy and Andrew Telfer.

Because of injuries, Davidson junior forwards Landon Gruszewski and Alex Campbell have seen considerable time on defense.

Other regular contributors include Davidson senior forward Tyler Hissrich, Grove City junior forward Travis Wright, Davidson sophomore forward Kyle Antal, Darby junior Thomas Wright, Columbus Alternative junior forward Gus Oberdick and Darby junior defenseman E.J. Graf.

"We see ourselves bonding," Majher said. "We feel like everyone on this team is a threat on any given day."