"We probably have the best opportunity in a couple of years to make some noise with the current roster," Lefever said in mid-October. "We should be a more offensive-minded team this season."
Turns out Lefever had a pretty good read on his squad.
After winning just five of 18 games a year ago, Central York can clinch the CPIHL's Tier 1 regular-season championship Monday night with a win or tie against Kennard-Dale at the York City Ice Arena.
At 15-2-0, the Panthers are currently even with Central Dauphin (15-3-0) atop the Tier 1 standings with 30 points, but the Rams have already wrapped up their regular season.
Should Central York take care of business Monday night with at least a point, Lefever's team will wrap up a division title for the first time since 2004-05, when the Panthers claimed the Tier 1 East Division title.
So how did Central turn things around so quickly from last season?
"A lot of it has to do with our overall team maturity," Lefever said earlier this week. "We only had two seniors last year. The team was made up primarily of juniors, sophomores and freshmen. That first year of competition at this level can be a real eye-opening experience.
"Now what you're seeing is that competitiveness and focus comes along with the maturity.
In the preseason, Lefever figured his team would score more than the 55 goals it mustered a year ago. He was right, as Central heads into Monday's regular-season finale with 87 goals.
More critically, though, is the Panthers' ability to keep the puck out of its own net. After yielding 59 goals last season in 18 games, Central has allowed a league-low 25 through 17 games this time around.
"We implemented a new system in the offensive zone which lets us trap the puck more. That really helped, and our defense really matured, too," said Tallen Stroman, the Panthers' No. 1 goalie. "Our all-around experience helped us improve so much.
"The new system helped us keep the puck in the offensive zone more, which takes pressure off our defensive game. When the other team does get the puck in our end, our 'D' kept the majority of the shots to the outside. I really haven't had to make too many tough saves."
Stroman (13-2-0) has four of Central's six shutouts this season. The junior shared two others with freshman goalie Stu Perry, and Stroman's 1.38 goals-against average is the lowest among all CPIHL goalies with 10 or more games played.
Offensively, the Panthers boast a balanced attack which boasts four lines' worth of point-producing capability.
Right wing Kenny Gross leads the team in goals (27) and points (38), but the junior is quick to share the spotlight with his teammates.
"Our five seniors have done a great job providing the leadership for us," Gross said. "We're a more-experienced team now, our defense has been strong and Tallen and Stu have played great in goal."
It didn't take Lefever long to sense his team was headed in the right direction.
"After our first game of the season, which we lost to Central Dauphin, 4-2, we came out of it knowing we had played better than they did and probably deserved to win," Lefever said. "We just played undisciplined hockey.
"Once we bought into our system and kept our goals-against down, things worked out well for us."
Central needs a point to lock up first place. If the Panthers lose to Kennard-Dale on Monday and finish even with Central Dauphin in wins (15) and points (30), CD will win the division, even though the two teams split their season series.
It would come down to the third tie-breaker, which is goal differential in the season series. CD outscored Central, 6-5, in the two meetings.
With the CPIHL playoffs and Flyers Cup state tournament looming, Lefever said his team won't be placing too much of an emphasis on Monday's finale.
"We're not focusing too much on (winning a division title)," Lefever said. "It's pretty much business as usual. If we win the title, it's a bonus for us. We just wanted to finish among the top eight teams and make the playoffs.
"If we keep playing like we have all season, things will continue to go well for us."