Upper Arlington hockey coach Brett Howden expected the Golden Bears to be further along entering this season than they were last year at this time, partly because the coaching staff returned intact and because more than half the team's scoring returned from a year ago when the Bears went 25-8-1-2 and advanced to a district semifinal.

More than that, Howden was most excited about the Bears' depth as they opened Nov. 23 against Olentangy Orange in a Capital Hockey Conference game at Chiller North.

"We think we will have everyone contribute," said Howden, who is in his second season. "Another year under this staff between (assistants) Jack Hoogeveen and Hamish Baird and myself probably put us a little further ahead in the summer. That's when we were able to drill down in some of those summer skates, but we have a good group of kids. They're jelling well. We have four even lines and (junior goaltender) Garrett (Alderman) back. He is excited to not have to share the net this year as much. Overall, they're just buying into the system a little earlier."

Sophomore forward Sam Burns scored 22 goals last season, leading all returnees, and also had a team-high 20 assists. Senior forward Tim Kramer added 20 goals, junior forward Will Cohen had 11 and Alderman returns after stopping 319 of 358 shots for an .891 save percentage.

The returnees accounted for 84 of UA's 155 goals last year.

"We've been practicing at a lot higher tempo and playing at a much higher tempo than last year," Kramer said. "Practice-wise, we are further ahead than we were. Everybody is buying in early. We've hit the ground running."

The defense returns seniors Will Lawless and Todd Bainbridge and junior Whitty Tevonian and adds, among others, senior Trevor Williams and sophomores Sam Cannon and Noah Domagalski. Cannon has been shifted from forward to defenseman, according to Howden, to help with depth.

"We are physical in the (defensive) zone, which is nice because it makes the forwards think twice when they have the puck on their stick," Lawless said. "They have to think about if they're going to be hit or not and how much time they have. We're a physical group."

Rounding out the roster are seniors Caden Callaghan (forward), Andrew DeVoe (forward) and Duncan MacDonald (forward), juniors Tristan Elmhurst (forward), Adam Karap (forward) and Andrew Sexton (goalie), sophomores Nolan Adams (forward), Carson Gresock (forward) and Max Robins (forward) and freshmen Charlie Linzell (forward).

Elmhurst played the past several seasons with the AAA Blue Jackets.

UA resumes CHC play Dec. 6 against Cincinnati Moeller at OhioHealth Ice Haus.

The Bears went 11-4 with 22 points in the CHC-Red Division last year to finish third behind Dublin Jerome (28, 14-1), which went on to become the first area team to compete in the state final. UA lost to Olentangy Liberty 3-2 in a district semifinal.

According to Kramer, Jerome's postseason success has raised the bar for other area teams.

"We've had a lot of really good hockey (in the area) and we just haven't had the ability to prove it. Last year, Jerome finally got there and said, 'We're not going to be overlooked anymore,'" Kramer said.

"I think that inspired other teams. I know it inspired us and we expect Liberty to be better, too. In the (league), everybody is feeling good. You can be a frontrunner in Columbus hockey."

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave

Schedules

Below are the coming schedules for the Upper Arlington girls basketball and hockey teams:

GIRLS BASKETBALL

*Dec. 3 -- At Dublin Coffman

HOCKEY

Nov. 29 -- Northeast Storm in Chiller Thanksgiving Classic at Chiller Dublin

Nov. 30 -- Dublin Coffman and Whitehouse Anthony Wayne in Chiller Thanksgiving Classic at Chiller Dublin

Dec. 1 -- TBD in Chiller Thanksgiving Classic at Chiller Dublin

*League contest