First-year Westerville club hockey team coach Brian Thompson is confident his team will bounce back from what he called a rebuilding season a year ago.

First-year Westerville club hockey team coach Brian Thompson is confident his team will bounce back from what he called a rebuilding season a year ago.

The Warcats finished 24-8-11, won the Greater Columbus High School Club Hockey League championship and advanced to the state tournament in 2014-15, but they slipped to 12-21-4 overall and 5-15-4 (14 points) in the league last season.

Westerville defeated PHA 3-0 on Nov. 20 and beat Athens 6-1 on Nov. 21 to improve to 4-4-2 overall and 3-2-1 in the GCHSCHL. The Warcats' first league win came against defending league champion Dayton, 2-1 on Nov. 7.

Thompson, who was an assistant coach the past two seasons, replaced Brad Bloomberg, who is now an assistant at Olentangy Orange. Bloomberg coached the Warcats for two seasons.

"We have a lot of talent," Thompson said. "This is the most depth we've had in my three years here. It's the most we've had to work with numbers-wise, but also from top to bottom. It's the most talented group we've had since I've been here."

The Warcats' roster is comprised mainly of players from the Westerville school district.

Grant Dickinson, a freshman forward who attends North, led the team in scoring through nine games with six goals and two assists. He had two goals in a 3-all tie against Newark on Nov. 12.

Among the key returnees is North senior forward Nicholas Orioli, who had 26 goals and 11 assists last season. Through nine games, he had four goals and three assists.

"Two years ago, we had (13) seniors, so last year was a completely new team," Orioli said. "It was a rebuilding year. Everyone has stepped up this year. We all have the same goal of winning the state championship. We're trying to get there. We have a lot of players this year. It's been a good year so far."

Other key returnees include Central junior forward Evan Ingram, who had 17 goals and 10 assists last season, and South junior defenseman Victor Runyon, who had 13 goals and eight assists.

Central junior defenseman Nathan Vititoe is another key returnee.

Also back are seniors Greg Bowman (defenseman, Jonathan Alder), Luke Ewing (forward, North), Jacob Hardy (defenseman, South) and Cole Thomas (goaltender, South), juniors Nick Olson (forward, North) and Colton Siemer (forward, North) and sophomores Travis Furman (defenseman, North) and Jack Larimer (forward, North).

Freshman Sean Coonfare, who attends Oakstone Academy, has emerged as the starting goalie.

Rounding out the team are seniors Nicholas Leonard (defenseman, South), Connor McAfee (forward, Columbus Academy) and Nicholas Stocker (forward, North), junior Evan Garber (forward, North), sophomores Ian Bushong (defenseman, Central) and Ryan Butler (forward, South) and freshman Will Olson (forward, North).

"I know the guys pretty well," Thompson said. "We have a few new faces, but it's been nice to have the same group stick around for a couple years because they know me and I know them. They know the expectations and they know how we play."

Last season, Westerville finished sixth in the seven-team GCHSCHL and went 1-2 in the league tournament, also called the Blue Jackets Cup.

The GCHSCHL's top four teams qualify for the state tournament, which is known as the Buckeye Cup.