The Prowler Hockey Association will be counting on players to step into the lineup next season.
The Prowlers are losing 10 seniors from this year's squad after finishing 26-15-3 overall.
"We are losing six forwards, three defensemen and a goalie, but I would say we need to reload next year, not rebuild," third-year coach Bob McElheney said. "I think the Future Prowlers program does a remarkable job getting good kids and prepares them well. It seems we always have some guys ready to step in."
PHA concluded its season in the state tournament, known as the Buckeye Cup, held March 2-4 at Chiller North. The Prowlers went 1-2 in round-robin play, beating Wooster 2-1 on March 2 but losing to Newark 8-2 and Jackson 3-0 the following day, and did not advance to the semifinals after finishing as state runners-up last season.
Newark went on to beat Camp Dennison Indian Hill 6-2 for the state title.
"It always stinks when you lose your final game and it really stinks when you don't play on the final day of the season," said McElheney, whose team went 7-8 in its final 15 games. "But we had quite a turnover from last year and the kids were resilient. We won two tournaments this season and we finished with more wins than last year (23-18-7).
"I think the best of PHA has yet to be seen. I think the next few years will be great years for this organization."
Competing in the Ohio Scholastic Hockey League, PHA went 12-9-3 to total 27 points and finish fifth, behind Newark (43, 20-1-3), Dayton (30, 13-7-4) and Northeast and Hilliard (both 28, 12-8-4) and ahead of Westerville (9, 3-18-3) and Athens (3, 0-21-3).
In the league tournament, known as the Blue Jackets Cup, the Prowlers lost to Northeast 3-2 on Feb. 15 and defeated Dayton 5-4 in a shootout on Feb. 17 before losing to Newark 4-3 later in the day. Newark won the Cup title.
Among the seniors were forwards Brody Beckwith (Canal Winchester), Ryan O'Callaghan (Pickerington North) and Deric Richison (home-schooled from Groveport district), defenseman Devin Hux (Pickerington Central) and goaltender Tyler Dorian (Central).
Richison led the team in goals (51) and points (71) and was second on the team in assists (20), while O'Callaghan led the team in assists (22) and was second in goals (21) and points (43). Beckwith had 11 goals and 13 assists for 24 points, and Hux had three goals and nine assists for 12 points.
Dorian was 11-9-2 with a 2.11 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage.
The other seniors were forwards Tyler Giles (Reynoldsburg), Caleb Marsh (North) and Brandon Wise (Hartley) and defensemen Jordan Crawford (North) and Will Jones (North).
Wise had 12 points (7 goals, 5 assists) and Marsh had 10 points (4 goals, 6 assists).
Among the expected returnees are freshman forward Brandon Hux (Central), who had 29 points (15 goals, 14 assists), and sophomore defenseman Garrett Bowers (Reynoldsburg), who had 21 points (4 goals, 17 assists).
Junior Spencer Jolley (Delaware Area Career Center) is in line to take over in goal after going 13-1 with a 1.64 GAA and a .900 save percentage.
Also expected back are junior forwards Caden Albert (North) and Noah Sherman (Reynoldsburg), sophomore forwards Gabe Gatewood (Watkins Memorial), Chase Minor (North) and Paxton Waits (Licking Heights) and freshman defenseman Sam Mills (Central).
@Brad_ThisWeekAt a glance
*Record: 26-15-3 overall, 12-9-3 (fifth) in OSHL
*Seniors lost: Brody Beckwith, Jordan Crawford, Tyler Dorian, Devin Hux, Tyler Giles, Will Jones, Caleb Marsh, Ryan O'Callaghan, Deric Richison and Brandon Wise
*Key returnees: Garrett Bowers, Brandon Hux and Spencer Jolley