Hat Tricks visit Bloomington, face off with Thunderbirds - Series Preview (1/3 & 4)

by Casey Bryant

The Danbury Hat Tricks kick off the 2020 portion of their campaign with a road trip out to Bloomington, Illinois to take on the Carolina Thunderbirds. The game is a preview for Bloomington hockey fans, as the city is primed to receive an expansion franchise in the FPHL next season. 

It just so happen that their neutral-site teaser is a matchup between the two top teams in the league.

As the best in the East get set for the best in the West, let's take a look at what fans can expect on the ice this weekend.

dyrssen heating up

Casper Dyrssen missed three games in December due to a lower-body injury. While the Hat Tricks won all three games, his presence as a two-way forward was sorely missed. Since returning to the lineup, Dyrssen has six points in five games. While on a line with Gordy Bonnel and Vlad Gavrik, Dyrssen capped off a gorgeous passing play to get the Hat Tricks on the board in last Saturday's matchup.

The best teams in the league have depth. With Cory Anderson's recent departure for the SPHL and Nick DiNicola still day-to-day with an upper-body injury, the Hat Tricks will need Dyrssen to shoulder quite a bit of responsibility on the second line.

breaking through the pk

The Carolina Thunderbirds have some of the most skilled players in the FPHL, both offensively and defensively. Where they truly excel, however, is on the penalty kill. In addition to having the most successful kill rate in the league (91.2%), they also are tied for the most short-handed goals scored as a team with eight in 22 games. 

It isn't just one player shouldering the load on the kill, either. Six different players have found the back of the net while down a man this season.

The Hat Tricks will have their best powerplay weapon Jonny Ruiz back in the fold for this series. Ruiz leads the team with five goals on the man advantage.

the neutral ice effect

"Bus legs" are not an excuse for either side in this series. With the game being held in a neutral location, there's no home crowd to overcome, and the other team has had to travel just as far. The Thunderbirds are 9-0 away from the comforts of home, while the Hat Tricks are 7-4.

Danbury's first win of the season came on the road, incidentally, against these same Thunderbirds. The two teams have met twice and have split a pair of one-goal decisions. The Hat Tricks remain the only team this season to beat the Thunderbirds in regulation time.

final thoughts

This is the marquee matchup of the weekend in the FPHL. How else would you rather start 2020 than with a preview of a potential Commissioner's Cup Final matchup? While both sides will be tested, the Hat Tricks truly have more to prove. They are the expansion team going up against the defending champs. This is a chance to send a warning shot to the rest of the league that Danbury is for real.