As the Darien girls hockey team skated off the ice on Friday following the completion of its final practice before its first game on Saturday, a sense of optimism was in the air.

The Blue Wave finished last season with a trip to the FCIAC and state tournaments, but they know they've got their work cut out for them if they are to knock off perennial FCIAC and state favorite New Canaan.

"Goals for the season are honestly beating New Canaan. FCIACs and states would be great, but I haven't beaten New Canaan in my high school career. They've had a lot of transition this year, so I think this would be a great year to pounce on them," defenseman and senior captain Lily Christensen said. "We seem to have a pattern of stepping onto the ice not as fast as we should. We just have to find that energy from the get-go."

If Darien is to clear the enormous hurdle that is New Canaan, it will do so with a new head coach, as Jamie Tropsa replaces Al Gurney.

The Wave are an extraordinarily young team, as Christensen is the lone senior. Captain goalie Shannon Hall, captain right winger Ellie Bennett and forward Sage Thacher are the only three juniors.

"We're very, very young and the future looks good. We have one senior, Lily Christensen, who is definitely our mainstay and our leader," Tropsa said. "Without a doubt (being young presents challenges), however our freshman class is so strong and the kids we have returning have the experience that could help us have a very good year."

Tropsa provided subject-to-change line combinations and defense pairings.

"We have some things narrowed down, but nothing is set in stone," Tropsa said. "It's definitely a topic that's open for discussion and probably will be changing."

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When the puck drops for Opening Night, Tropsa will likely have Bennett, Thacher and Samantha Nielson at forward with Amanda Sload and Lily Christensen handling defensive duties.

"I would say this is the best that we've looked in the preseason as long as I've been here. We've had some tough scrimmages, and at the Shelton jamboree we didn't lose a game and didn't have a goal scored on us, which says something," Bennett said. "We've been doing sprints every practice and we have a lot of speed, which can help us make the plays that we need to have happen."

Darien's second line trio of forwards is Geogia Cassdiy, Marissa Baker, Julia Arrix and its second defense pairing is Katie Zaro and Chandler Kirby.

Hall is dealing with an injury, so fellow goalie Izzy Scribano will get the call to start Darien's first game at home against Guilford at the Darien Ice Rink on Saturday at 7:20 p.m.

"Shannon and Izzy are both competing for the starting job," Tropsa said. "I don't want to say we're going to have a starting goalie right now."

Including a pair of regular season matchups against New Canaan on Jan. 14 and Feb. 11, there are several games that the captains sound as if they're looking forward to.

"I'm really looking forward to the Ridgefield games because playing them at Shelton in the jamboree, they just looked like a really strong team -- really gritty. I see ourselves as really `dig deep, go for it,'" Bennett said. "I'm also really excited for the New Canaan game just because we have such a huge rivalry."

"New Canaan and definitely Ridgefield," Christensen said. Twitter: @jchik17