MANCHESTER >> It wasn't the start to the season they wanted, but right now the Burr and Burton Academy girls hockey team couldn't be happier about where they are at this season.
The Bulldogs came into the Division II playoffs as the hottest team in the tournament, going 6-1-1 in their final eight regular season games and in their opening round matchup against Brattleboro on Saturday, BBA continued its hot streak, defeating their rivals 3-1 to advance to the quarterfinals.
"We are playing our best hockey right now and that's where we want to be come playoff time," said BBA coach Ed Lewicki. "The girls have done a great job of turning this season around and staying with it. It shows that we have a bunch of girls that have a no-quit attitude and will do what it takes to get better."
Now 7-1-1 in their last nine games and currently on a season-high four-game winning streak, the No.7 seed Bulldogs will have the huge task of traveling to Jericho to face No.2 seed Mount Mansfield.
Of course, BBA has already had the tough challenge of going on the road to play the Cougars and passed that obstacle with flying colors, beating them 6-4 two weeks ago.
In fact, the Bulldogs have fared well against the top teams in Division II, going 4-0-1 against the top five seeds in the division during the second half of the season.
"We just seem to play better against better competition," Lewicki said. "We enjoy being the underdog and we like having the chance to knock off the best of the best in our division."
A key to the success of the Bulldogs hot streak has been the play of their senior captain, Aggie Bisselle.
Bisselle has had a spectacular senior season with 41 goals and 54 points so far this season, earning Division II Player of the Year honors, named by coaches in the division.
"Aggie is a tremendous player and when you have a player of her caliber, you know you have a shot of winning the game," Lewicki said. "Having her on the ice really gives the other girls confidence that we're going to have a chance to win the game and I think has helped them improve a lot through the course of the season."
That improvement was evident in their last meeting against the Cougars, when freshmen Charleigh Carthy and Chloe MacDonald each scored a goal to help BBA get out to an early 3-0 lead.
The rest of the game, junior Natalia Sowulewska and seniors Audriauna Bryant and Catharine Greenberg all played well both offensively and defensively, while junior goaltender Molly Dingley did a good job standing on her head, racking up 29 saves to help the Bulldogs pull off the upset over the Cougars.
"A key to our win two weeks ago was the great play from our second line," Lewicki said. "Molly did a great job in net like she has done all season for us and I think that win proved how good of an overall team that we are."
Hot at the right time and in a wide open Division II field, the Bulldogs have a chance of making a run at a state title.
They know they're not going to be overlooked by the Cougars, though.
"We know that we're not going to surprise anybody from here on out," Lewicki said. "Everybody else in the tournament know how hot we have been, so we just have to keep calm and play like we have been playing the past nine games. We do that, we're going to have a chance to win the game."
The game begins tonight at 5 p.m. at Essex.