Hat Tricks vs Thunder - Series Preview (12/6 & 7)

by Casey Bryant

This weekend's forecast: Thunder. The Danbury Hat Tricks play host to the Delaware Thunder for the first time this weekend in an Eastern Division showdown. The Hat Tricks enter the weekend on a five-game win streak, including a three-game sweep of Elmira last week. They are 7-4-0-2, sitting in third in the division. The Delaware Thunder are 2-10-0-0, having lost their last five games and nine of their last 10.

With two of the league's newest franchises set to do battle, let's take a look at what fans can expect on the ice. 

protect the net

Goaltender Dillon Kelley received a call-up to the Peoria Rivermen (SPHL) earlier this week. Kelley was a constant in the Hat Tricks' lineup, ever consistent and rarely making egregious errors. He departs the team with a 5-1-0 record.

The owner of the other two Hat Tricks victories, Tom McGuckin, will likely get the start in net Friday. McGuckin has looked far more confident between the pipes in recent games. It would appear that earning his first professional victory provided him the opportunity to breathe a sigh of relief. His best performance was a 32-save relief effort last Saturday in Elmira, which earned him a comeback 5-2 win.


Perhaps most impressive in this hot streak has been Danbury's ability to keep the puck out of the net. They have held their opponents to just two goals in each of their last five games.

Nick Niedert is expected to dress in the backup role Friday. No plans have been announced for Saturday.

somebody cover marker!

Ryan Marker currently sits tied for seventh in the league in points with 24 in 12 games. He is a career two-points-per-game player in the FPHL, also registering 28 points in 14 games in Danville last season. His stellar play that year earned him a call-up to Evansville in the SPHL. The Sewell, NJ native can do damage at a moment's notice as one of the best shot generators in the league. 

Brandon Contratto has also gotten off to a hot start for the Thunder, notching 21 points thus far. Contratto was a teammate of Marker's in Danville last year.

The Hat Tricks defense will have their hands full containing Delaware's top line, and they'll have some new faces on the blueline to do it. Vlad Gavrik will move from the wing to defense. As one of the biggest players on the roster, he'll be looking to utilize his frame and strength to slow down the speedy Marker and force him to the wall. Steve Brown's healthy return to the lineup will also help matters.

pounce on the powerplay

Danbury boasts the best powerplay unit in the FPHL, operating at 26.2% efficiency. They have netted 17 goals on the man advantage, a mark that only Danville has matched in seven more attempts.

Delaware, meanwhile, touts the second-worst penalty kill in the league at just 71.7%. They are only better than Battle Creek- a low bar to clear at 56.5%. 

Perhaps most impressive is just how much the Hat Tricks like to share the wealth. Eleven players on the active roster have netted a powerplay goal this season, a remarkable feat in selflessness. Jonny Ruiz continues to lead the way with four goals on the advantage.

Final thoughts

The Hat Tricks are four points behind the Mentor Ice Breakers for second place in the Eastern Division. Mentor has a tough set this weekend in Danville. This is a prime opportunity for the Hat Tricks to seize second place with a key six points in-division on the line this weekend.

That said, Delaware is making adjustments to their roster daily, searching for the winning formula as a fellow expansion franchise. This should be a high-octane matchup with some high-caliber talent at play.


Tickets for this weekend are available by clicking here.