Hat Tricks at Enforcers - Series Preview (11/27, 29 & 30)

by Casey Bryant

The Danbury Hat Tricks have themselves a Thanksgiving showdown this week, as they hit the road to take on the Elmira Enforcers. Danbury is looking to build off an explosive offensive weekend on home ice, while Elmira seeks to extend their three-game winning streak.

Let's take a look at what fans can expect from this three-game set.

strength on d

The Danbury Hat Tricks have been pretty banged up on the blue line to start the season, as Steve Brown and Kruz Listmayer have both been sidelined for several weekends with lower-body injuries. While Brown is considered day-to-day, Listmayer is still "about a week away" from returning to the team. In the event neither of these two are ready to go this week, the Hat Tricks still have reinforcements with them.

Aaron Atwell was given top-pair minutes in his first showing with the Tricks last weekend against Battle Creek, and looked more comfortable as time progressed. Though there were a few hiccups in his first few shifts, Atwell grew confident the more he was on then ice. When he's on the same page as his team, he's one of the best puck-moving defensemen in the league, and a terrific skater to lead the breakout.

Brett Menton also made his Hat Tricks debut after being acquired from the Delaware Thunder, and he netted his first goal with the team on Saturday night. Menton too saw his play improve with increased minutes.

Kyle Gonzalez will be unavailable this week, as he was called up to the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs in the SPHL. Danbury will need Atwell, Menton and Thomas Freeman to be on their A-game this week on defense.

Manage special teams

There were penalties galore in the first meeting between the Hat Tricks and Enforcers. Elmira tacked on three goals on the powerplay and two shorthanded, while Danbury potted three powerplay goals and a shortie themselves. Given the Enforcers are, true to their name, by far the most penalized team in the FPHL (329 PIMs), the Tricks will likely get plenty of opportunities to strike on the man advantage.

Expect their three-man wrecking crew of Nicola Levesque, Jonny Ruiz and Phil Bronner to see a lot of minutes. Even beyond those three, who are responsible for six of Danbury's 16 powerplay goals, Carter Shinkaruk has announced himself as a primary weapon for the special teams unit. Shinkaruk tallied a powerplay goal Saturday night and was a true force of puck possession and scoring chance generation all weekend.

If the top unit can't get it done, Shinkaruk and the second unit will be ready to answer the call.

keep a level head

Easier said than done at this level, eh? Head coach Billy McCreary was asked about the penalty issues and blows traded by these two teams on November 16th by Junior Reporter Declan Saumell.

"We can't get sucked into the game that they like to play," he commented at the time. "We like to play a clean game of hockey, we gotta get back to that."

Momentum looked to be on the side of the Hat Tricks nearing the end of the second period of that game, with Danbury finishing a double-minor powerplay shift that generated numerous chances and Nicola Levesque besting Kyle Stevens in a fight that ignited the crowd. Then the Enforcers netted three goals in 26 seconds, putting the game well out of reach.

This go around, the Hat Tricks will assuredly want to play with some physicality and swagger, while at the same time managing their temper and staying disciplined. 

It's easier to win the aforementioned special teams battle when you stay out of the box.

Final thoughts

Elmira looked like a completely different team in their rematch with Danbury. They were more aggressive pursuing the puck carrier, crisper on their breakouts and much more difficult to penetrate in the neutral zone. Troy Passingham stood on his head to keep the Enforcers on top after getting yanked early the night before.

This is a tough Elmira team that's loaded with talent and ready for anything. This is going to be a premier matchup. 

Grab your leftover turkey and stuffing and head to Elmira's Youtube page for live streaming of the games.