The Prowler Hockey Association club team needs some time to jell this season after losing 10 players to graduation and incorporating 12 new faces onto the roster.
The Prowlers are 4-11-4 overall and 1-3-2 in the Ohio Scholastic Hockey League entering a game against Dayton on Saturday, Dec. 1, at Chiller Easton.
“We’re just trying to get 20 kids on the same page at this point,” fourth-year coach Bob McElheney said. “Chemistry takes time and we just got one of our guys in here after football season. They’re starting to come around.
“We played a tough non-league schedule before beginning league play in hopes of preparing us for the season. I’m very happy with their work ethic and the goal is to be on the same sheet of music come January and then, boom, look out for the Prowlers.”
Last season, the Prowlers finished 26-15-3 overall and went 12-9-3 (27 points) in the seven-team OSHL to place fifth behind champion Newark (43, 20-1-3). They went 1-2 in pool play in the Buckeye Cup, which serves as the league tournament.
PHA returns nine players but has yet to name captains.
“We had such a big turnover that we’re waiting to see who steps up and earns it,” McElheney said. “We just don’t hand those honors out.”
Returning forwards include seniors Caden Albert (Pickerington North) and Noah Sherman (Reynoldsburg), juniors Chase Minor (North) and Paxton Waits (Licking Heights) and sophomore Brandon Hux (Pickerington Central).
Senior Spencer Jolley (Delaware Area Career Center) returns in goal, and back on defense are juniors Logan Beckwith (Canal Winchester) and Garrett Bowers (Reynoldsburg) and sophomore Sam Mills (Central).
“Jolley has really stepped up and taken ownership in goal,” McElheney said. “Bowers and Beckwith are our best defenders and Hux and Waits are working hard and blending with some of our young forwards.”
Joining the team as forwards are seniors Carson Stanley (Central) and Peyton Strader (Grove City), juniors Trevor Knoplesch (North) and Tanner Sabau (North) and freshmen Logan Cuvo (North), Kyle Mead (Canal Winchester) and Daniel Trask (North).
Newcomers on defense are senior Travis Runyan (North), juniors Cameron Bell (Reynoldsburg) and Ryan Ennis (Hilliard Bradley) and freshman Brandon Ley (Central), while freshman Blake Smiley (Liberty Union) is the backup goaltender.
“I’ve been impressed with the play of Sabau, Meade, Knoplesch and Stanley at forward and Ley is playing well defensively,” McElheney said. “We’ve got a lot of young pieces. It’s just a matter of everything becoming connected.”
In six league games, Sabau has a team-high six goals and three assists. Hux, Mead and Knoplesch each have two goals and Hux and Mead share the team lead with four assists.
McElheny expects the team’s participation numbers and depth to increase in the years to come.
“We’re basically just starting to get our kids filtered through the Future Prowler Program,” he said. “We’re in our fourth year with the program and it’ll begin paying dividends next year. The kids will be on the same page in terms of familiarity with others and with the system, techniques and philosophies we’ve put forth. I really like where this program is right now.”
*Nov. 1 – Newark at Lou & Gib Reese Ice Arena
*Nov. 2 – Hilliard at Chiller Easton
*Nov. 9 – Northeast at Chiller North
*Nov. 10 – Dayton at Kettering Recreation Center
*Nov. 16 – Westerville at Chiller Easton
*Nov. 17 – Newark at Chiller Lane
*Dec. 1 – Dayton at Chiller Easton
*Dec. 2 – Hilliard at OhioHealth Ice Haus
*Dec. 9 – Athens at Lou & Gib Reese Ice Arena
*Dec. 15 – Northeast at Chiller Easton
*Dec. 16 – Dayton at Chiller Springfield
*Dec. 21 – Hilliard at Chiller Dublin
*Dec. 22 – Westerville at Chiller North
*Dec. 29 – Newark at Chiller Lane
*Dec. 30 – Athens at Bird Arena
*Jan. 4 – Hilliard at Chiller Dublin
*Jan. 5 – Westerville at Chiller North
*Jan. 11 – Athens at Bird Arena
*Jan. 13 – Westerville at Chiller Lane
Jan. 18-21 – Avalanche Shootout in Grand Rapids, Mich.
*Jan. 25 – Northeast at Chiller Easton
*Jan. 27 – Dayton at OhioHealth Ice Haus
*Feb. 3 – Athens at Chiller Easton
*Feb. 7 – Newark at Lou & Gib Reese Ice Arena
*Feb. 9 – Northeast at Chiller North