NORTH READING — Last winter, the North Reading High boys hockey team fell to Marblehead, 4-1, in the first round of the Division 2 North state Tournament. With that loss, the Hornets ended the year at 16-3-2. Seven players from that team graduated.

This season, the defending Cape Ann League champs return 14 veterans under sixth–year head coach John Giuliotti.

Forward Jared Potter and defenseman Corey Collins are the two senior captains the year. The five other seniors back are Chris Onanian (forward), Griffin Paine (forward), Zach Herman (forward), Sean McGreal (defenseman), and Jared Pelham (forward).

Five juniors are back, Tyler Calos (forward), Nick Day (forward), Nick Ponte (goalie), and the Driscoll twins, Pat and Mike. Both Driscolls are forwards.

The two sophomores back are John Merullo (forward), and Jared Valade (defense).

Day and Potter are the team’s top two returning scorers.

The two-week preseason has started off for Giuliotti.

“It has gone well,” he said. “We have scrimmaged Austin Prep, who is a Division 1 power, and Reading and I have really pushed the kids.”

Reading is the defending Division 1 state champions.

The Hornets will play a 20-game season. They will play in a pair of tournaments as they will play in the Kasabuski Christmas Tournament in Saugus during the school vacation week and they will also play down in Cape Cod during the February vacation week.

On Dec. 17, the Hornets opened the season at home against Amesbury at Burbank Arena in Reading (results not available at press time).

On Saturday afternoon at 5:20, the Hornets visit Masconomet at 5:20 at the Valley Forum in Haverhill. On Dec. 24, North Reading host Boston Latin at 11 am.

Giuliotti feels that Newburyport, Masconomet and Triton will be the biggest challenges in the league this year.