The Westerville club hockey team improved by 11 wins last season, and second-year coach Jordan DiGiando is looking for even more improvement this winter.

The Warcats finished 22-24 overall a year ago after going 11-33-7 in the 2017-18 season.

"We've had a lot of success in our preseason against some pretty good opponents," DiGiando said. "The team looks good. We have a lot offensive firepower and a very solid defensive corps."

The Warcats were 9-7-4 overall and 0-2-1 in the Ohio Scholastic Hockey League before playing Dayton on Nov. 23.

Westerville will compete in the 21st annual Chiller Thanksgiving Classic, which runs Friday, Nov. 29, through Sunday, Dec. 1, at Chiller North.

The Warcats will play Cincinnati St. Xavier on the first day of the event and Dayton and Chagrin Falls Kenston on the second day. Their opponent on the third day will be determined after the first two days.

In league action, Westerville tied PHA at 3 on Nov. 2 and lost to Northeast 3-2 on Nov. 16 and Newark 4-2 on Nov. 9.

"Newark was a pretty good game," DiGiando said. "We fell a little bit short at the end. We have a lot to work on with the power play."

The Warcats went 10-14 in the OSHL last season to finish fourth behind champion Newark (18-1-5).

"I don't know league-side there's going to be any frontrunners coming out early," DiGiando said. "After Christmas, we'll see that it's going to be a very tight league this year. At least, I would hope that. I hope it's healthy competition."

The Warcats are looking to return to the 12-team state tournament, known as the Buckeye Cup, after finishing 1-2 in pool play last season.

"Our goal for this year is pretty much the same as last year," said senior defenseman Joshua South, who attends Westerville Central. "It's make it to state and past that. It's all hard work."

Westerville has a new goaltender in senior Jacob DeBella (Westerville South). He replaces Sean Coonfare (Oakstone Academy), who was a four-year starter.

"Goaltending has been good so far this year," DiGiando said. "We've had Jake DeBella really step up. He has been solid. Right now, Jake has the hot hand, so if he keeps performing, he's our go-to guy. Sean was obviously a strong goaltender, a program goaltender. Jake has ability and through the years has worked very hard. Now it's his turn to shine."

Through 20 games, senior forward Nicholas Frissora (Central) had 15 goals and 12 assists, junior forward Santo Scillia (South) had 13 goals and 16 assists and sophomore forward Sedric Cowans (Reynoldsburg) had nine goals and 16 assists.

DeBella was 5-5-2 with a 3.15 goals-against average and an .856 save percentage.

Other returnees are seniors Payton Hilling (forward, Westerville North), Gabe Muccio (defenseman, Central) and Braden Mulick (defenseman, South), juniors Andrew Reisinger (defenseman, Central) and Alex Snyder (forward, North) and sophomores Caleb Bussey (forward, Reynoldsburg) and Cullen Hassel (forward, Central).

"We're a really tight-knit group of guys and most of us have played together for three or four years," South said. "I've been playing with some of these guys since middle school and everybody understands where everybody is going to be and how everybody expects to play."

Also on the team are seniors Nathaniel Priedeman (forward, Central) and Shea Sooley (defenseman, Central) and juniors Bryce Beaty (goalie, South), Daniel Bridge (forward, North) and Aidan Mukavetz (goalie, South).

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