MANCHESTER -- It's the start of a new season for the Burr and Burton Academy boys hockey team.

And not just in the sense that the calendar has turned to December.

A new coach, a new goalie, and a bunch of new faces throughout makes Joe Ferrara's first season in charge a brand new affair for everyone involved.

It means there's tempered expectations heading into the season opener on Wednesday, a home game against a U-32 team that beat BBA in the Division II state finals last year, but the attitude around the Bulldogs' camp isn't one of despair. It is one of hope, even if it takes a while to realize that.

"We have a lot of new people," said junior defenseman Devin Straley. "But if we always keep our hopes up and keep pushing forward, even if we don't see any return for it this year, we will when the team starts getting older again."

The statement seems to dampen talks of a successful season. But the feeling within the team is that this year isn't about wins or losses. While the team would love to make another run at a state title, the primary objective for BBA this season is to build as a unit, and keep spirits high while doing it.

"[The coaches] are making sure that no one gets down on each other," said sophomore forward and alternate captain, Jack Ams. "[Ferrara] is trying to be real positive, and telling us to be the same way to our teammates."

Ferrara, when outlining his season's goals, did not bring up winning once. Instead, he talked about building better players. Ferrara mentioned three things: Having fun as a team, doing three special things for members of the community, and being able to tell their peers at the end of the season that they had a great experience.

"I'm going to ask the kids to mature quickly, but we'll go through our ups and downs," Ferrara said. "I'm not worried about us getting better."

But if there is one position that Ferrara will hope can get better, and in a hurry, it will be between the pipes.

Gone is Zack Stewart, one of the top goalies in the state last season. In his place are junior Julian Woodrow and Kevin Souls. Ferrara has not decided who will start, opening the position to whichever goalie has a better week in practice.

"We have two young goalies that are learning the game and adjusting to the speed of it," Ferrara said. "We will evaluate that as we go through practice." But for the pair, their first year will come with a big aid: Ferrara himself.

While most coaches have backgrounds as a forward or a defenseman, Ferrara is a goalie coach. From the squirt level to the collegiate game and with some USA Hockey experience in-between, Ferrara has worked with goalies his whole life.

"Most coaches don't have a goaltending coach," Ferrara pointed out. "With us, that isn't a worry. I am one."

Ferrara comes to the team after an assistant coaching stint at Castleton State. Ferrara found out about the opening through the previous coach, Cory Herrington. When Herrington told Ferrara he was stepping away, Ferrara immediately applied.

"I've known about Burr and Burton the whole time I've been in Vermont," Ferrara said. "It is a great school with a good tradition."

Up front, captain Andy Ishu will be asked to help fill in the goalscoring left by the graduates of last year's team. Along with him, Ams figures to be a major contributor on the offensive end, along with another alternate captain, junior Nolan Johnson. Sophomore Chris Kornaros should also see some significant playing time for BBA.

"There are a lot of young players that will get more minutes than expected," Ams said. "But we just need the older guys to help them out as much as they can."

Defensively, Straley will be asked to step up into a leadership position, along with Max Inglson.

"I think things are coming together real well," Straley said. "All of us are getting new exposure and new experience. With all the positivity, people are going to play well and feel better about themselves. Everyone is going to keep getting better."

As for starting the season against U-32, a team that crushed the Bulldogs' title hopes with a 5-2 win at Gutterson Fieldhouse last March, the Bulldogs see it as a blessing and a curse.

"We are excited to play them," Straley said. "We obviously want to come in and beat them, but we just need to play our own game."

"We will see how we stand up," Ams added. "We are just going to do our best."


* Coach: Ed Lewicki (4th season)

* Last year: 6-14-1

* The team: The Bulldogs have a few holes to fill, but a strong junior class should see BBA mix things up this season. The Bulldogs are moving down to Division II after playing D-I last year.

Senior Mary Leech and junior Daisy Sullivan will captain the squad, with Leech playing on the first line with sophomore Aggie Bisselle and junior Jordan Harmon, while Sullivan will be on the second line with junior Kristi Lewicki and junior Megan Grabher. Grabher moves up to forward after playing defense last season. Senior Morgan Bazyk will also figure into the forward position this season.

On the defense, juniors Ryder Ferrone and Lucy Bisselle will lead the line, while senior Clara Berard, junior Hannah Dingley, and sophomore Tess Pollard will all see minutes.

Junior Kaylie Benson will take over in goal for BBA this season.

* Opener: Wednesday vs. Northfield , 3:45 p.m.