The New Albany High School hockey team's continued improvement comes with positives and challenges.

With 39 players, the program is as large as it's been in its five seasons. Fifth-year coach Joe Kola is carrying 20 players on varsity, but only four are returnees from a team that went 20-10-1-3 overall last season and won the Capital Hockey Conference-White Division championship.

Seniors Alex Arenschield (forward), Alex Mattevi (goaltender), Tyler Riddle (forward) and Mario Vinciguerra (forward) are back to lead New Albany, which opened Nov. 24 with a 3-0 loss to Dublin Jerome in the Chiller Thanksgiving Classic at Chiller Dublin. Riddle scored a team-high 27 goals last year.

Also in the tournament, the Eagles defeated Springboro 5-3 and lost to Cleveland St. Ignatius B 5-4 on Nov. 25, and beat Mentor Lake Catholic 7-2 on Nov. 26.

Among the team's losses, senior forward Brocke Ellis and junior defenseman Joey Mattevi left for club teams, juniors Gunnar Geiger (forward) and Jacob Sardo (defenseman) now are playing for Columbus Academy and junior defenseman Parker Thompson is concentrating on baseball. Geiger and Sardo played for New Albany because Academy did not have a team until this year.

"There's a new energy with so many new guys," said Kola, adding that he and last year's seniors helped start the program as a club team in 2013. "We're a well-balanced team. We don't have the big star, but our average talent is better and our lower-level talent is better."

New Albany went 11-3-0-2 (24 points) in the CHC a year ago to finish ahead of runner-up Olentangy Orange (21, 10-5-0-1). Because of their division championship, the Eagles automatically were promoted to the CHC-Red, the league's top division, where they'll compete with Jerome, Olentangy Liberty, St. Charles and Upper Arlington.

The Eagles begin league play Dec. 8 against St. Charles at Chiller Easton.

"We're quite excited, actually, to play those top teams more," Riddle said. "We lost 12 guys from last year who helped make this team what it is now, who put us where we are (in the top division). It's a challenge we all embrace."

Rounding out the roster are senior Austin Trudeau (forward), juniors Jordan Campbell (forward), Vaughn Hoff (forward), Tucker King (goalie), Michael Siebenaler (forward) and Parker VanDenBerg (defenseman), sophomores Brandon Barash (forward), Jacob Brooks (forward), Aidan Doyle (defenseman), Noah LaCommare (defenseman), Matthew Moellering (forward), Max Phillips (defenseman), Hampton Stelluti (defenseman) and Brandon Trudeau (forward) and freshmen Daylan Campbell (forward) and Ian Hoff (defenseman).

Jordan Campbell and the Trudeau brothers are move-ins from Gahanna. Campbell had 10 goals for the Lions last year.

"It's a nice energy and a different flow than we are used to," Kola said.

While New Albany is seeking its third consecutive division championship, the one thing that has eluded the program is a postseason win. The Eagles lost to Springboro 3-1 in the second round of the district tournament last year.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave

Schedules

HOCKEY

Nov. 24 -- Dublin Jerome in Chiller Thanksgiving Classic at Chiller Dublin

Nov. 25 -- Cleveland St. Ignatius B and Springboro in Chiller Thanksgiving Classic at Chiller Dublin

Nov. 26 -- Mentor Lake Catholic in Chiller Thanksgiving Classic at Chiller Dublin

Nov. 30 -- Dublin Jerome in Adam Allgeyer Memorial Showcase at Chiller Dublin

Dec. 1 -- Parma Padua in Adam Allgeyer Memorial Showcase at Chiller Dublin

Dec. 2 -- Olentangy Liberty in Adam Allgeyer Memorial Showcase at Chiller Dublin

*Dec. 8 -- St. Charles at Chiller Easton

*Dec. 9 -- Olentangy Liberty at Chiller North

*Dec. 10 -- Olentangy Liberty at Chiller Easton

*Dec. 16 -- Cincinnati Moeller at Northland Ice Center in Cincinnati

*Dec. 17 -- Dublin Coffman at Chiller Dublin

*Dec. 22 -- Olentangy at Chiller Easton

Dec. 27-29 -- Lakewood St. Edward Eagle Classic at Serpentini Arena

*Jan. 6 -- Thomas Worthington at Chiller Easton

*Jan. 7 -- Gahanna at Chiller Easton

Jan. 12-14 -- Pioneer Classic at Chiller Dublin

*Jan. 20 -- Upper Arlington at OhioHealth Ice Haus

*Jan. 21 -- Dublin Jerome at Chiller Easton

*Jan. 26 -- Dublin Jerome at Chiller Dublin

*Jan. 27 -- DeSales at Chiller Easton

*Jan. 28 -- Springboro at Chiller Easton

*Feb. 2 -- Watterson at Chiller Dublin

*Feb. 3 -- Upper Arlington at Chiller Easton

*Feb. 4 -- St. Charles at OhioHealth Ice Haus

*League contest

Below are the coming schedules for the New Albany boys basketball, bowling, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:

BOYS BASKETBALL

Dec. 1 -- Home vs. Olentangy Orange

Dec. 5 -- At Westerville Central

BOWLING

*Dec. 4 -- Olentangy at Delaware Lanes

SWIMMING & DIVING

Dec. 5 -- Home vs. Marysville and Thomas Worthington

WRESTLING

Dec. 2 -- Tony Pizzurro Memorial Tournament at DeSales

*League contest