With 12 returning players including four talented seniors, the Troy Trojans hockey season is underway, and the Trojans are coming into the season with a chip on their shoulder with a lot to prove.

After finishing 15-15-2 overall last season, their finish in the SWOHSHL forced them to drop to the lower division, which hasn’t sit too well with the Trojans.

“We were not where we wanted to be last year,” said Troy coach Phill Noll. “We were in the upper division of five teams, but league rules force us to drop to the lower division. We want to win the Gold Division and move back up to the Red where we belong. We feel like we belong in the top five in the league, and it is one of the big goals for everyone on the team.”

“The key is that we don’t have to win every game, but we have to improve every game.”

Troy is now in with the likes of Alter, Elder, LaSalle, Sycamore and Mason this season.

Gone is team MVP Jake Uhlenbrock along with key scorer Alex Smith, but four seniors will lead the way for the Trojans, led by center AJ Noll, who last season scored his 100th career point, which only 13 other Troy players have ever done. He is currently fourth all-time on points, fourth in assists and sixth in goals.

“All of those career records are in reach,” said the Trojans coach. “But what I want from him is leadership, he has never been a fluids scorer, but is an excellent passer and set-up man.”

Another senior center is Tyler Hess, who runs the second line of their offense.

“He can score and is a physical player,” Noll said. The coach also praised another senior, Troy Moore who is the defense stopper for the Trojans.

“Troy is the backbone of our defense,” Noll said. “He is a very physical player and can skate the puck up the ice when needed.”

Also on the doorstep of 100 career points is senior Doug Eardly, who plays on either the first or second line.

“He has good hockey sense and really good hands,” Noll said. Eardley is sitting at 79 career points.

Leading the juniors will be goalie Cory Neff, a three-year varsity player. He has progressed to become a top-two goalie for Troy, and according to Noll, they will use whichever goalie is performing at the time.

Prestyn Hoefler also is back at the wing spot, and is a proficient scorer who can score with any opportunity given to him. In one game in the preseason, he scored four goals in a seven minute span.

Another three year player is Caleb Mangas, who is a good defender and still progressing according to Noll. He is joined by fellow junior Charlie Ryan, who will play wing.

Also new to the squad is junior Caleb Salazar, who attends Troy Christian. He used to play youth hockey for Noll, and since Troy Christian does not have a team, and Salazer lives in the Troy district, he is permitted to play for the Trojans.

“He is still learning the game again, but has really progressed from his first practice,” Noll said.

The sophomores also return some rising talent. Nate Uhlenbrock returns but is currently out with an injury, and according to Noll, could be out until the first of the year. Shaemus Nevin returns as one of the goalies, and just needs time to refine his game.

Moving back to the defensive while Uhlenbrock is out will be sophomore John Wehrkamp, who is usually a wing. Other sophomores for the Trojans include Graham Harvey, Michael Hess, Enrique Alejandre and Brendan Binge. Freshman include Kaleb Nelson, Grant Gareity, Dominic Wenrick, Jack McGuirk and Shane Smith.

The home opener for the Trojans is December 19 against Toledo Whitmer at 4:15, which is also Youth Hockey Night Also the next night, Troy hosts Alter at 5:45, and will also have a food drive.

*Troy lost their first two games of the season last weekend at the Frozen Creek Classic hosted by Beavercreek High School. The event was held at the Kettering Rec Center.

Troy lost to Indian Hill 5-2 in their opener, as Mangas and Alejandre each scored for Troy, while assists went to Noll, Hess and Smith. The next day, Troy lost to Athens 4-3.