Hat Tricks vs Prowlers - Series Preview (10/25 & 26)
The Danbury Hat Tricks drop the puck on their inaugural season tomorrow night, and they've got quite the opponent to open against in the Port Huron Prowlers. With two games on home ice to set the tone for the 2019-20 season, let's take a look at what fans can expect this weekend.
What's happening at the arena?
The first 1,000 fans on Friday night will receive a commemorative Hat Tricks cup courtesy of 98Q. The rock band Spiral Array will be performing before the game and during the first intermission.
The Hat Tricks Halloween Costume Contest will be held during the first intermission on Saturday's game. Kids ages 4-15 are welcome to enter and will receive complimentary tickets.
A portion of the proceeds from ticket sales, auctions and raffles held this weekend will benefit the Max Cure Foundation for child cancer research.
Slow down the offense
Port Huron is known for high-octane scoring, especially from their top line. Jay Dalton and Matt Robertson placed second and third in the league scoring race last season with 105 and 102 points, respectively. Dalton led the league with 62 assists. Other role players like Zack Zulkanycz and former Danbury Titan Matt Graham are other forwards to keep an eye on.
Longtime Danbury Whaler/Titan Steve Brown will be one of the key shutdown defensemen the Hat Tricks will rely on to keep the Prowlers' offense at bay. Brown was a key part of the 2013 FHL Champion Danbury Whalers, posting an assist and a +7 rating en route to the Commissioner's Cup.
Take the body
What would Danbury hockey be without physicality? It's abundantly clear in talking with head coach Billy McCreary that the modus operandi of the Danbury Hat Tricks is going to be defending their turf and sticking up for teammates. The Hat Tricks' colors may be black and orange, but the fanbase expects them to be black and blue.
One of the expected leaders on the ice is Phil Bronner, back for his second stint with Danbury in the FPHL. The 30-year-old put up 26 points and 65 PIMs in 52 SPHL games last year. He also has logged 114 points in 81 career FPHL games. Bronner is a seasoned vet with a propensity to get to the dirty areas of the ice. Expect Bronner to make his presence felt along the wall and in front of the net.
Win the special teams battle
Port Huron scored the fewest powerplay goals in the league last season, netting just 39 on 222 attempts (17.6% efficiency). They also allowed the third-most powerplay goals in the league with just a 79% effective penalty kill.
That said, potent talent up front makes them a danger to score a shorthanded goal at any moment. The Prowlers potted a league-best 14 shorties last season, 13 of them coming from Robertson, Dalton and Graham. Danbury has to protect the puck on the blueline and be smart with their passing lanes to prevent giving the lethal forwards from Port Huron any momentum.
This will be a terrific litmus test for the Danbury Hat Tricks to open the season. Port Huron was the fourth and final playoff team last season with some tremendous talent both up front and in goal, but placed in the middle of the pack in most team metrics. They play a quintessentially FPHL-style game, fast and physical. For a team looking to make their mark as league newcomer and establish themselves as contenders, this is the perfect opportunity to announce a presence.
Expect high-flying, high-scoring action on Danbury ice this weekend.