Hat Tricks Insider: Training Camp Notebook, Oct. 13

by Jim Cerny

Training camp began for the Danbury Hat Tricks on Monday and there’s a definite theme to it already.

“Billy’s working us,” forward Tobias Odjick said. “He’s really working us.”

Billy, of course, is Billy McCreary, coach and general manager of the Hat Tricks. And he’s running a camp where everything is done with tempo and pace. There’s purpose to every drill, every teaching moment, every video session.

Oh, and yes, there’s been a heavy emphasis on conditioning.

“My job is to hold the players accountable to the standards to be a wining organization,” McCreary stated simply.

There’s been a lot of turnover since last season, when the Hat Tricks finished third in the FPHL and lost in the Commissioner’s Cup semifinals. Key veterans Aaron Atwell, Cory Anderson, Steve Brown, Phil Bronner and Peter DiSalvo retired.

That’s a lot of talent, not to mention veterans to drive home the coach’s message, removed from the roster. So, McCreary is front and center at camp making sure each player understands the commitment he expects. New faces or familiar ones, the goal remains the same. Winning a championship.

“We have a lot of new bodies,” McCreary said. “So, one thing we’ve been trying to do is to get our new guys up to speed on the details they have to hit to be successful. … I want to make sure that the accountability in our details and work ethic and our communication, that we’re hitting those details right out of the gate.”

Positive impressions being made at Hat Tricks training camp

It’s a work in progress but several players have made a positive first impression at training camp this week.

“I like to see that these new guys are hungry,” captain Jonny Ruiz said. “And that fits in with the veterans that came back this season. We’re showing them the Danbury Hat Tricks way and our standard of how we do things our way. It’s a great group.”

Andrew Whelan, a 31-year-old defenseman who played two games with the Delaware Thunder last season, is one of the newcomers that has stood out. McCreary pointed out that Whelan “might be a guy we can lean on … I think he’s going to have a really good year for us.”

Two other defensemen have earned praise from McCreary early in camp. Brendan Dowler and Jarod Yau are rookies looking to grab a spot in the lineup.

Yau played one game at the end of last season with the Hat Tricks after he had 35 points (four goals, 31 assists) and 95 penalty minutes in 43 games in the Provincial Junior Hockey League.

“I really think he’s going to take another step this year to help solidify our D corps,” McCreary said of the 21-year-old.

McCreary coached Dowler in junior. The 25-year-old had eight points (seven goals, one assist) in 21 games for the University of Southern Maine last season.

Forward Zachary Pamaylaon has stood out, and not just because he’s from Hawaii. The 26-year-old had 73 points (26 goals, 47 assists) in 20 games with Bryn Athyn College in Pennsylvania last season. And he’s played with Ruiz and Gordy Bonnel on the top line during training camp.

“It was definitely done for a reason,” McCreary said of putting the rookie on a line with the skilled veterans. “I wanted to see the chemistry and also wanted to challenge him mentally and see how he responds.”