Assistant Sports Editor
MANCHESTER -- Starting the year where last season ended, the Burr and Burton Academy boys hockey team finds itself in an unique position, equal parts grudge match and measuring stick.
Either way, defending state champion U-32 -- which rallied on its home ice to beat BBA, 5-3, in the semifinals -- looms in Saturday’s season-opener.
But, hungry and hopeful, the Bulldogs return their top three scorers and a standout goaltender, eager for payback in the first stop on what they hope is a lengthy journey this winter. Perhaps even as far as the program’s first state final at Gutterson Fieldhouse since 2009.
"We lost in the semifinals last year -- that’s in our heads. We want to get back to there and win it and try to get to Gutterson, obviously," senior forward Sean Paradis said. "We’re just trying to get used to our lines right now. Saturday will be a good test."
In Paradis (19 goals, 20 assists) and seniors Henry Buckley (13 goals, 12 assists) and Brock Pollard (19 goals, 15 assists), BBA can turn to the bulk of its scoring from last winter, the type of attacking trio that would be the envy of many teams.
"It’s our senior year, we have to bring it every game," Paradis said.
"They’re focused and the understand the finality of this as seniors," said coach Cory Herrington, entering his 11th season leading the BBA bench. "They’re going to need to play a leadership role if we’re going to be successful as a group."
In senior goaltender Zack Stewart, the Bulldogs, who finished 15-4-3 last year, also feel like they have a trump card up their sleeves.
"Zack saved our butts almost half of our games last year," Pollard said. "Without him between the pipes, we could’ve been in bad shape. He kept us in like all of our games and we’ve got to re-pay him this year.
"We’ve got to get everyone to step up."
Aside from the already well-known names, Herrington said newcomers Andy Izzo, a junior transfer, and talented freshman Matt Mullen will be in the mix from the start.
"I expect those two to have an impact right away," Herrington said.
Other key returners include sophomore Andy Ishu and senior Andrew Filippi.
Herrington said Mullen could join seniors Elijah Brown and Bennett Timmerman in filling out a depleted defensive unit.
"We lost a bunch of defensemen, so we’re going to have to work through that," Herrington said.
For a group with postseason ambitions, Herrington said the on-ice demeanor is as important as finding and protecting the net.
"We’ve got to absolutely compete and get that mentality that when we get here it’s business -- that’s our focus," Herrington said.
And where last season ended, on the road at, has already provided the building blocks for that outlook.
"I wish I went a little harder at the end of the season or at the end of that game," Pollard said. "I kept thinking to myself on the bus that I could’ve done this a little better, I could’ve played a little harder here or there."