Hat Tricks at Dashers - Series Preview (11/1 & 2)
After a pair of overtime heartbreakers on opening weekend, the Danbury Hat Tricks are hitting the road for the first time in franchise history. Stop number one: Danville, IL, to take on the Dashers. Danville skated away with a pair of commanding victories over the Battle Creek Rumble Bees last weekend, putting up 13 goals in the two contests.
Let's take a look at what to watch for this weekend.
Set the tone early
Danbury scored first in both their Friday and Saturday games. Jonny Ruiz took just 61 seconds to net the first goal in Hat Tricks history, while Steve Mele potted the first of Saturday's match after only 2:28. They have done a good job of applying pressure early and putting themselves in the driver's seat.
Danville has also been the first to strike in their two games. The race is on to get that all-important first goal. It's especially critical for a brand new team visiting enemy territory for the first time.
Ruiz is growing into a vital force on the Hat Tricks' top line. After his historic tally Friday, he won an offensive zone draw cleanly back to Mele early Saturday, which Mele took full advantage of. When the team needs a spark, Ruiz has been there to generate a scoring opportunity. Look for him to be a playmaker this weekend.
build an identity
The Hat Tricks' coaching staff, while keeping an optimistic outlook considering the results, was less than pleased with the team's lack of intimidation factor in their opening set. It's clear that the team is expected to play with a bit more vitriol in their hearts and ferocity along the wall.
Though Kruz Listmayer had a few board-rattling hits in the early goings of Friday's contest, the young defender struggled to put himself in the right position to take the body and make a play. That said, once he's acclimated to the pace of play, he can be a punisher on the blueline. If anyone is going to take Billy McCreary's edict of toughness to heart, it's Listmayer.
Finish the period
Three times the Danbury Hat Tricks allowed a goal in the final three minutes of a period last weekend. Twice they surrendered a late-third period goal to send the game to overtime. The front of the net needs to be protected and the defense needs to suffocate zone entries.
The Dashers have some lethal scorers to target up front, namely Fred Hein, who leads the team with five points through opening weekend. Hein registered 55 points in 40 regular season games last season in Danville. Justin Brausen notched four points against Battle Creek, building on last year's 30-goal, 63-point performance.
Danville pretty much had their way with the Rumble Bees, outscoring them 13-4 and going 5-for-12 on the powerplay. They held Battle Creek to 20 and 22 shots on goal, respectively.
After accumulating 34 penalty minutes against Port Huron, the Hat Tricks will look to stay out of the box and establish a physical presence while maintaining discipline. Danville finished last in the FPHL standings last season, posting a 16-36-3-4 record. They had a -66 goal differential, second-worst in the league.
It's a new year and you never want to take your opponent for granted, but this is a prime opportunity for the Hat Tricks to make some noise.
Live game coverage will be featured on the Danville Dashers' YouTube channel. Puck drop is scheduled for 8:05pm EDT.