WORTHINGTON -- There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic for the Worthington girls hockey team.

After winning six games and nearly claiming victory in many more, WHS did not graduate anyone from last year’s squad.

“We have the same team as last year, no seniors left us,” Worthington senior Hannah Barrie said. “I feel like we all have gotten to know each other better. That will help us be able to work together better.”

There are four seniors on this year’s team. That experience will be key, according to head coach Chad Nickel.

“The biggest thing is the girls are getting older,” he said. “We were running a young group. Now we’re getting up in the top end. This is our first year having a graduating class from our 12U program. We now have a length of girls being on the ice playing hockey, not just coming in at the high school level.”

One key for WHS this year will be figuring out how to turn close games into wins.

“I think we needed to push ourselves a little bit harder in the whole game, not just one period,” Barrie said. “I feel like if we support each other and keep pushing ourselves, it’s going to take the whole team to win the game.”

Of last year’s losses, 10 were by two goals or less.

“It’s always frustrating when you get that close and it slips through your hands,” senior Kya Nickel said. “It almost gives you more energy and drive to want to be the ones next time to capitalize and get the best of the other team.”

And how do the Trojans turn around that trend?

“You have to stop and practice and think to yourself, ‘OK, what do we have to work on? What do we have to do to improve?’ Just take the game and find something to fix,” Kya Nickel said. “You only take one thing, because if you try to fix everything, it doesn’t work.”

At times, Worthington struggled to score goals. But with Ashton Fogelman (20 goals last year), Kessey Aljets (14) and Makenna Nickel (10) returning as the top scorers, the team is confident the goals will come.

“In the top two lines, I think you’ll see more goals,” Chad Nickel said. “They are finally getting to the point where they are getting a feel for each other.”

Defensively, Kaylee Bents returns in net. In front of her, defenders Madisyn Shriener, Barrie, Cadence Van Ede and Kory Nickel all return, setting up WHS to be strong both offensively and defensively.

“I think mentally, that’s what’s going to beat our kids,” assistant coach Rachel Peters said. “They have to understand to be mentally prepared before games and be focused when they are out on the ice and play together as a team, and not just think of an individual self throughout the whole process. Mentally, that’s what would get people to beat us.”

Worthington opens its season Tuesday.

“With everyone returning, we have our team,” Kya Nickel said. “We can take last year, take that momentum and bring it into this year. As long as we stay united as a team, we should have a good season.”