After three straight seasons of improvement — in its first three years as a varsity program — the Wilton High girls hockey team backtracked last winter, finishing the season with a 6-12-1 record.

Heavy graduation losses were a contributing factor, and the Warriors must again cope with significant departures entering the 2012-13 campaign.

Gone are forward Sammi Blicht and goalie Vanessa Pagano, two of the team’s stalwarts, and also forwards Christine Terradista and Jessica Toll.

But graduation wasn’t the only exit route for top players: The Warriors also must do without forward Emilie Arrix and defenseman Madison Hendry, both of whom decided not to return in order to focus on other sports.

“We lost some key people, but I think we can hold our own,” said head coach Kerry Leonard, whose team opens the season on the road next Tuesday against the Fairfield co-op team. “We may not be as good as we have been in other years, but we can still be competitive.”

Leading the Wilton defense is Erin O’Connell, the team’s only senior.

“Erin is such a dependable player,” said Leonard. “She will set a good example for the younger players.”

Also back are juniors Perri Blicht and Nicole Lue, who can play on the blueline and also as forwards.

“They are both very skilled,” said Leonard about Blicht and Lue. “We are going to rely on them, along with Erin, a lot this season.”

Juniors Samantha Engborg and Alex Marcarelli and sophomore Amanda D’Arbanville will be among the team’s top forwards, while sophomores Jenny Hojnacki and Monica Prario should be factors on defense.

“Jenny Hojnacki has really improved, as has Monica Prario,” said Leonard. “They have looked good in the pre-season.”

In goal, freshman Brooke Johnson takes over for Pagano.

“She should do a pretty good job,” said Leonard about Johnson. “She has experience playing goalie.”

Wilton’s roster also includes sophomores Lehne Camp, Andrea Micik, Caroline Coupe, Shannon Wolpiuk, Vivian Hong, Caroline Costello, and Monei Walker, along with freshmen Lily Walsh, Shannon Coomaraswarm, Amanda Craven, Liz Craven, and Lia Tavarez.

With just five upperclassmen on the roster, Leonard knows the sophomores and freshmen must step up, if Wilton is going to rebound from last season.

“We need some of the younger players to be contributors,” she said. “It is a good chance for them to get playing time and help us out.”