CROSS RIVER, N.Y. – A young John Jay team kept getting better as the season wore on en route to their second straight Division 2 section title last season.

Now, John Jay returns a talented group after only graduating five players and a three-peat is on their minds.

“The team brings a number of players back from last year,” said John Jay coach Alex Smith, whose team defeated Pelham, 5-1, last season to win the Section 1 title. “We have been working hard to prepare for the new season.”

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Smith said the program’s success has been dependent upon “maintaining strong defensive zone structure, minimizing mistakes and understanding our roles day to day.”

Two forwards, senior captain Jack Browne and sophomore Tyler Wishart, lead the team offensively. Wishart quickly emerged during his freshman season as a goal-scoring threat and will look to have an even bigger sophomore campaign.

“Jack is a power forward with a nasty wrist shot and Tyler is a fast-skating playmaker,” Smith said.

Other key returners at forward are junior assistant captain Mike McKeon along with sophomores Mattie Wierl and Anthony Protomastro.

Leading the defense are a foursome of returners in senior captain Charlie Oestreicher, senior assistant captain Tyler Petschek, junior Ethan Jackson and sophomore Justin DeLucia. Jacob Silva, a junior assistant captain, is another defenseman.

Nick Petrella, a senior, is back after splitting time with the graduated Eric Sasimovich last season. Sasimovich had an incredible run in net during the postseason to help propel John Jay to a championship. Freshman Dylan Rogers is a newcomer who also plays goalie.

Rounding out John Jay’s roster are: freshman Kyle Petschek (forward), sophomore Doug Styles (forward), senior Gunnar Carlson (forward), freshman Walter Oestreicher (forward), sophomore Barrett Lunder (forward), junior Zach Dering (forward), sophomore Sean Lenahan (defense), junior Ryan Kaplan (defense), junior Danny Marschke (forward), senior Lars Carlson (forward) and sophomore Scott MacDonald (defense).

John Jay, which lost in the state semifinals to Queensbury last season, opened the new campaign with a 10-0 win over Fox Lane on Saturday, Nov. 30, at Brewster Ice Arena.

The Indians will also take on West Seneca West on Dec. 7 at the Ice Hutch (Mount Vernon) in a rematch of last year’s regional championship game, which John Jay won 3-0.

“We have a difficult schedule,” Smith said. “We are hopeful to get off to a good start and build consistency throughout the long season. If we can keep our game simple, we are hopeful to compete in the playoffs and extend our season.”