Hat Tricks, Thunderbirds square off in three-game homestand - Series Preview (1/30-2/1)

by Casey Bryant

It's a battle of the division leaders, as the Danbury Hat Tricks host the reigning Commissioner's Cup champion Carolina Thunderbirds for a three-game homestand. Tickets are available by clicking here. Live game streaming will be featured on the Hat Tricks' Youtube page.

With a high-profile matchup on tap, let's take a look at what fans can expect this weekend on the ice.

a test of depth

The Danbury Hat Tricks have had several players in and out of the lineup due to a myriad of injuries. Aaron Atwell has been held out of the last three games with a lower-body injury. Gordy Bonnel did not play last weekend, though he returned last night against Watertown. Steve Mele missed last weekend with an illness. Martin Tuma is questionable with a lower-body injury. Thomas Freeman remains out with a lower-body injury.

To add insult to injury, Cory Anderson still has four games remaining on a suspension handed down by the league for an altercation last Saturday.

This weekend will equate to four games in four days. For a team that is already up against it from a roster standpoint, this will be a critical test for them.

The top pair has been juggled a bit, but expect big defensive minutes from Steve Brown, Vlad Gavrik and Billy McCreary. They will need to be on their A-game in shutting down a potent Carolina offense.

getting to the net

The Hat Tricks outscored the Thunderbirds 8-1 in their two-game series out in Bloomington back at the start of 2020. How? Traffic in front. Danbury was successfully able to penetrate Carolina's defense, planting bodies in front of the netminder and opening up the Royal Road area between the hashmarks. 

Phil Bronner is the Hat Tricks' most dangerous presence in the blue paint. He had two goals and two assists against the Thunderbirds in Illinois, and has points in 10 of his last 12 games. Expect him to be one of the most relied-on forwards in this series.

thunderbird goaltending

Goaltending has always been a focal point for the Carolina Thunderbirds. Falling in line with that principle has been Jacob Mullen, salvaged from the Battle Creek Rumble Bees and dominating between the pipes. Since getting traded to the Thunderbirds, he is 4-0 with a 1.25 goals-against average, .948 save percentage and two shutouts.

Think he's happy to be out of Michigan?

Patrik Polivka has been having a terrific year as well, but was beaten seven times on 49 shots over the course of two games against the Hat Tricks. Those two losses are the only blemishes on an otherwise perfect 11-2-0 record.

Whoever is in goal for Carolina, it will be difficult to break through.

final thoughts

The eyes of the FPHL are going to be on this series. Expect a high-octane, fast-paced, high-scoring affair as both teams look to assert themselves as the best in the league. The Thunderbirds have only three regulation losses this season- all three to the Danbury Hat Tricks.

They will want revenge, big time.