Thomas Worthington High School hockey coach Josh Sockrider wants his team not only to excel in the physical portion of the game but also embrace the mental aspects of play.

Thomas Worthington High School hockey coach Josh Sockrider wants his team not only to excel in the physical portion of the game but also embrace the mental aspects of play.

He believes a strong mental attitude is as much a part of success as a hard check into the boards.

"The biggest thing at the varsity level is that you have to have the mental capacity to play consistently," said Sockrider, whose team opens against Dublin Scioto at the Midwest Thanksgiving Classic on Friday at Chiller Dublin. "We always pride ourselves in being physical. We're not always the biggest group, but we need to take the right angle on checks and keep our heads in the offensive zones."

Thomas finished 7-29-1 last season, marking its sixth consecutive losing season. The Cardinals defeated Springboro 6-2 in the first round of the district tournament before losing to Oxford Talawanda 10-2 in the second round.

The Cardinals return 13 letterwinners in seniors Tyler Graham (forward), Reed Hickman (defenseman), Nick Katona (forward), Grayson Livingston (forward), Tony Pike (defenseman), Zach Schaeffer (forward) and Hans Smith (forward), juniors Jimmy Danko (forward/defenseman), Hilton Dellinger (goaltender) and Shane Hartlaub (forward) and sophomores Harrison Cohan (forward), Kyle Gratz (defenseman) and Graham Nadler (forward).

"We have great leadership and the kids are extremely dedicated," said Sockrider, who is assisted by Neil Sander, Dru Delaforet and Dave Culbertson. "They have big ambitions and a lot of drive."

Katona led the team with 18 goals last season, with Graham scoring 11 goals and Cohan scoring eight. Katona, Graham, Danko and Hickman each was named honorable mention all-Capital Hockey Conference.

"We need to play physical hockey and not be afraid of anyone," Schaeffer said. "We don't have a lot of guys who can take the puck and just go score by themselves. We have to work as a team and work hard on every shift."

Also on the team are sophomore Seth Woodward (forward) and freshmen Sam Bachmann (forward), Will Byars (forward), Jonathan Highley (goaltender), Brett McCarthy (defenseman) and Quintin Schomaker (defenseman).

"As for the overall quality of the kids performance-wise, they are playing at a high level," Sockrider said. "We have some more size than in previous seasons. We have some decent-sized kids coming in as freshmen, and we just have bigger guys."

Schaeffer has been impressed by the effort of the younger players.

"I really make sure everyone is working as hard as they can and giving their best," he said. "I try to help the younger kids in their transition into varsity hockey. I try to lead by example as much as I can."

Thomas went 4-11-1 (10 points) in the CHC last season to place 10th, behind Dublin Coffman (31), Olentangy Liberty (30), Dublin Jerome (27), Olentangy (20), Worthington Kilbourne (17), Gahanna (16), St. Charles (15), Upper Arlington (14) and DeSales (12) and ahead of Olentangy Orange (5) and Dublin Scioto (1).

Watterson and Cincinnati Moeller have joined the CHC, bringing the league total to 14 teams. Each team plays each opponent once in league play for a total of 13 league contests.

The Cardinals open league play against Olentangy on Dec. 18 at Chiller North.

"Anytime you have great teams in the league, it can only help you," Sockrider said. "Some people might not be happy that Moeller is in the league, but I think it will help to promote hockey in our area, and that's always good."