Coach Tim Pennington expects a much smoother ride in his second season leading the Olentangy Berlin hockey team.
After finishing a respectable 11-13-1-1 overall in their inaugural season, the Bears have much-needed experience and additional depth to help keep the players fresh as the season progresses.
"I think just having some guys back from last year and they have played together for a year is a big thing," Pennington said. "You can tell in the locker room, the overall attitude has been night and day from last year. That's been awesome."
Senior forward Andrew Rogers said the additional year of experience and the larger roster will make the Bears that much better.
"It's been nice in our four preseason games to have four lines instead of just one or two," he said. "Last year, we were rolling two lines and we were back on the ice every 45 seconds or so. Now we can go a minute and a half, which will help us be ready to go. Having three or four lines is what separates the top teams in the league from the others. That's what has made teams like (Dublin) Jerome and Liberty so strong."
The Bears finished second (18 points, 8-5-1-1) in the Capital Hockey Conference-Blue Division behind Thomas Worthington (21, 9-3-2-1) last season. Both teams have moved up to the CHC-White this winter.
"I petitioned to get us up in the White Division because I wanted to face a tougher schedule," said Pennington, whose team opened with league contests against Liberty on Nov. 22 and Upper Arlington on Nov. 23.
Pennington said the team's top scoring threats include Rogers, junior forward Cole Mascari and sophomore forwards Nick Piccioni and Zack Zielinski. Berlin also has three new forwards who should be sound around the net in junior Henderson Bishop, who moved back from Colorado, as well as junior Sebastian Dondalski and sophomore Carson Jankowski, both of whom played for AAA club teams.
"We are pretty solid (offensively), but we're young because we only have two seniors on the top two lines," Pennington said. "We have adopted a theme of 'we not me.' It's all about the team and not individual effort, and that has been positive in scrimmages."
The team has only three seniors in Rogers, defenseman Layne Comyns and forward Tanner Shimp. Comyns played forward last year.
Sophomore Josh Chmielewski is back in goal.
"We're still trying to build the culture right now," Rogers said. "We're trying not to get stupid penalties. If you take less penalties and try to capitalize on (your opponent's mistakes), you can be successful."
Girls basketball team looks for consistency
Coach Megan Beidelman will be looking for consistency in her second season leading the girls basketball team.
The Bears finished 13-10 overall and 6-8 in the OCC-Cardinal last winter.
Senior forward Jess Nation was second-team all-district and first-team all-league after leading Berlin in scoring (14.6 points) and rebounding (7.3), but she suffered an ACL tear in the offseason. A Colorado-Colorado Springs signee, Nation hopes to return in February.
Another starter, senior guard Meghan Boggess, did not return to the team. Boggess is competing in indoor track and field to prepare to run in college at Malone.
"I think we have our moments," said Beidelman, whose team opened Nov. 25 against Watterson. "We definitely need to work on consistency. We have done a lot of work.
"With losing Meg and Jess, we have a lot of people in new roles, and it's a challenge for them to build confidence in those roles. That will take time. I tell the girls that we aren't all needed as shooters because they aren't all scorers, but they all are needed as defenders."
The Bears have a solid returning backcourt in senior Haley Cera, junior Maddie Goodman (honorable mention all-district and all-league; 9.3 points) and junior Courtney Suchan (honorable mention all-district, second-team all-league; 8.6 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists). Freshman guard Ella Bishop also should contribute.
Senior McKinley Hoffmann, junior Gwynne Kiener and sophomore Deanara Mbouge, a move-in from Licking Heights, will play inside.
"The starters are still up for grabs," said Beidelman, whose team opens league play Tuesday, Dec. 3, at home against Delaware. "I do think the second go-round has been a little easier. I know what to expect and what is expected of me ... and I have a good staff beside me to help make it a good season."
Junior guard Jenna Boucher, sophomore guards Ada Freeman and Lexie Syroka and freshman guard Jocelyn Franz round out the roster.
Below are the coming schedules for the Berlin boys basketball, girls basketball and hockey teams:
Dec. 3 -- At Caledonia River Valley
*Dec. 3 -- Home vs. Delaware
Nov. 29 -- Cleveland Heights in Chiller Thanksgiving Classic at Chiller North
Nov. 30 -- Olentangy and Louisville (Ky.) Trinity in Chiller Thanksgiving Classic at Chiller North
Dec. 1 -- TBD in Chiller Thanksgiving Classic at Chiller North