BRATTLEBORO - If the Brattleboro boys hockey team’s first game of the season is an accurate preview of their rest, they certainly have much to learn, according to head coach Eric Libardoni.

"We need to grow up a lot as hockey players," he said after Wednesday’s 8-1 loss to Rutland. "We’re going to figure it out, but it’s going to be a process. Hopefully we learn sooner rather than later."

It should prove to be a tough test for Libardoni and his lads. After guiding a senior-cored crew last season to a 17-3 record, the challenge this year for the BUHS coach will be to build a similar squad, or at least a group with as much potential.

But there’s a dilemma. This group is green.

"The freshmen don’t know what’s going on," said Libardoni. "I think something like 11 of our 16 players are new to the team."

One Colonels freshman who seemed to know what was going on was Declan Lonergan. With four minutes left in the first, Lonergan swept down the right lane, got the puck around two Rutland defenders, and fired a quick shot that sailed mere inches past the visitor’s goal. Braxton Lynn picked it up behind the net and slid it across to teammate Jon Curtis. Curtis circled it back to Lonergan, who then scored the team’s lone goal on a wrist-in.

"Lonergan’s got some ability," said Libardoni. "He can shoot the puck."

Rutland junior Colin Clark can shoot the puck, too.

Clark had a hat trick, with a goal in the first and a couple back-to-back in the third, Jordan Godfrey scored two goals in the second period with assists from Dan Kurchena and Clark, and additional goals came courtesy of Skylar LaFerriere, Bauer Hill, and Kurchena. LaFerriere began checking the Brattleboro forwards into the boards during the opening period, and Colonels winger Evan Perkins answered with hard hits of his own.

It was a physical, offensive grind for the hosts, but Brattleboro’s defensive zone coverage also looked shaky, and it got them into some trouble during the second period as they were rendered short-handed while Rutland scored a trio of goals in a five-minute span.

"You can’t do that," said Libardoni about his team’s defensive performance. "Not when you don’t have the numbers to do it."

Greg DiSilva must have had welts all over his body after the thrashing he took in goal for the Colonels. The senior tender stopped 61 shots, staying low to the ice most of the night, cracking his back on occasion to pop up to make a save.

"I’ve seen (DiSilva) play better but he obviously got peppered," said Libardoni. "In the first half of the season, you’re going to get a lot of shots." It would have gone worse for DiSilva if it wasn’t for the efforts of defensemen Connor Hiner and Curtis, who put up a fight in front of him, but they couldn’t prevent everything Rutland threw at them.

"There is a good chance that they’re the best team we play all year," said Libardoni.

The Raiders may have brought a pretty tall measuring stick to Nelson Withington rink Wednesday, but the Colonels do have some serious issues to address moving forward.

"We need to improve our skaters, but there’s also some things mentally we need to do better," said Libardoni. "We need to learn about the game."

David Aquino can be reached at daquino@reformer.com, or by calling 802-254-2311, ext. 164.