MANCHESTER -- In two girls hockey matchups this season, No. 1 Middlebury and No. 2 Burr and Burton Academy have traded away wins -- with BBA winning at the Memorial Sports Center and the Tigers at Riley Rink.
So the Lake Division girls hockey final at Gutterson Fieldhouse tonight at 6 p.m. becomes a rubber match for all the marbles.
"Both teams are so equal, they beat us here and we beat them there," said Middlebury coach Matt Brust. "In order to be successful, we'll have to play three complete periods."
BBA comes in at 17-3-2, while Middlebury is 18-3-1. BBA won 3-2 on Dec. 21, while the Tigers won 5-2 in the regular season finale on Feb. 19.
"We were down 3-0 after two periods in the [final game] and came back to 3-2," said BBA coach Ed Lewicki. "It's just a matter of who plays the best and who gets the lucky bounces. It should be very competitive; I have tremendous respect for them."
Both teams have a ton of talent on the first line. The Bulldogs have Jordan Harmon, Mary Leech and Aggie Bisselle, while the Tigers counter with Timi Carone, one of the top scorers in the state. Along with her sisters Julie and Angela and Sara Boe, who scored the game-winning goal for the Tigers against No. 4 Stowe in double-overtime of the semifinal, the Burr and Burton defense will have to be strong on the forecheck, Lewicki said.
"The first line is real solid and they're deeper than us -- [they] run three lines and we don't necessarily have that depth," Lewicki said. "We can't man-mark Timi because she's a great two-way player, she gets back on defense."
In BBA's semifinal against Northfield, the Bulldogs held top scorer Kristin Dukette off the scoreboard and Megan Grabher scored the only goal.
The junior Grabher is the leader of the second line with Daisy Sullivan and Morgan Bazyk, a line that has contributed six out of 14 playoff points, including three goals.
"We need to have that balanced effort from all seven forwards," Lewicki said.
Expect a tight battle in net between BBA goalie Kaylie Benson and Middlebury's Bailey Ryan as well. Benson stopped 20 shots in the opening playoff game and 19 against Northfield and hasn't allowed a goal.
"She needs to stay focused and she's on a hot streak," Lewicki said.
BBA will have the experience edge. Middlebury hasn't been in the final since 2004 -- a 2-1 loss to BFA-St. Albans in Division I -- and have never won a state title.
BBA's junior class went to the Gut as freshmen, beating Stowe in 2012 for the Lake Division crown and the Bulldogs are 4-1 overall in finals.
"Our nerves should be a lot less with the experience from two years ago," said Lewicki, who has a handful of players on the roster who was on the team in 2012.
Win or lose, Lewicki said he told his team all he wants is their best effort and to leave everything on the ice.
"I said, ‘If you can look in the mirror and know you gave all you had, I'll be happy,'" Lewicki said.