Insider: Hat Tricks Notebook

by Jim Cerny, Hat Tricks Insider

The Danbury Hat Tricks are riding a season-high five-game winning streak and captain Jonny Ruiz believes there’s a subtle reason that outweighs some of the more obvious ones for their success.

“I think we’re learning from our mistakes,” Ruiz explained. “Mental breakdowns, things like that, when we allow goals we don’t let it get to us. We learn from it, we talk it over, we figure it out. And then we’ve stayed away from making the same mistakes. It’s becoming second nature to us now.”

That has helped the Hat Tricks build more confidence and avoid surrendering leads as they did consistently earlier in the season.

According to Ruiz, the turning point occurred after the Hat Tricks were “outworked all night” in a 6-3 loss at the Carolina Thunderbirds on Nov. 26. Danbury rallied for a 3-2 overtime win the next night in Carolina; then, after bussing up to Delaware for a matinee against the Thunder and falling behind 2-0 before the match was four minutes old, rallied for an 8-2 victory the following afternoon.

“We’re finding ways to win now,” Ruiz said.

They haven’t lost since that Friday night in Carolina and the Hat Tricks are outscoring their opponents 26-6 in the past five games. That brings to light some of the more obvious reasons why Danbury is rolling right now.

Ruiz is the catalyst, playing well on both sides of the puck, leading the Hat Tricks with 22 points in 14 games and ranking second in the FPHL with 14 goals. Forward Dmitry Kuznetsov is tied for third with 12 goals; defenseman Aaron Atwell is among the league leaders with 11 assists.

And since signing with Danbury, goalie Brian Wilson is unbeaten, allowing two goals in three starts, while posting a 0.67 goals-against average and .971 save percentage.

“We have really good hockey players,” Atwell said. “We somehow managed to sniff out, like we always seem to do, really good young raw talent … and a lot of experienced guys who have come back. It’s a mishmash of that and guys who may have slipped through the cracks somehow but can play. It’s a great mix.”

The Hat Tricks will look to make it six straight when they host the Port Huron Prowlers for the first of three consecutive games Thursday at 7 p.m.

Wilson, Kuznetsov, Shinkaruk moving up

It was a busy week of call ups for Hat Tricks players and alumni.

Wilson was loaned to Worcester of the ECHL and Kuznetsov was loaned to Roanoke of the Southern Professional Hockey League. Wilson did not appear in a game and was returned to Danbury on Monday. Kuznetsov is scoreless in two games for Roanoke and could return to the Hat Tricks this week.

“It’s mixed emotions because you love your teammates and you’re so excited for them when they get called up, but you do miss them and it creates a next-man-up situation with roster moves,” Ruiz explained.

More than 20 Hat Tricks players have been called up to the ECHL or SPHL since 2019-20.

“We like to, no pun intended, hang our hat on all the guys we helped get to the next level … it’s a great recruiting pitch to show players the success we have here in helping them move up the ladder,” general manager Billy McCreary said.

Carter Shinkaruk, who scored 62 points (24 goals, 38 assists) in 39 games for the Hat Tricks two seasons ago, was loaned to Iowa of the ECHL last week by Quad City of the SPHL. The alum’s news was met with excitement by McCreary and those who played with him in Danbury.

“You see a brother doing well, you’re proud as hell for him,” said Ruiz, who texted Shinkaruk as soon as he heard the news.

Added McCreary, “It’s a great moment for ‘Shinks’ … working with him I know this is a level he’s aspired to be at and find success at, so it’s great to see him get the opportunity.”

Ask the Hat Tricks Insider

I love the orange jerseys [the Hat Tricks] wore against Watertown [on Dec. 8]. When will they wear them again and how many times will the Hat Tricks wear those sweaters this season? --Caroline from Connecticut

I love them, too! But Danbury brass is keeping it a secret when the alternate threads will be seen again. I do know the orange sweaters can be worn at home or on the road. And there’s this nugget from Hat Tricks president Herm Sorcher, “We will also have a fourth jersey that we are ready to release and will have a few other specialty sweaters throughout the season!” Way to keep us on our toes, Herm. Guess we’ll have to keep showing up to Danbury Arena to see which uniform the Hat Tricks will be rocking each game!

Is Steve Brown staying with the team and what about Phil Bronner coming back? -- Mickey Przewlocki

Steve Brown is back and here to stay this season. The rugged defenseman has played five games, so far, and has four assists, 10 penalty minutes and is a +6. Brown is playing mostly on the right side of Atwell on the top defense pairing and as coach Dave MacIsaac said, “With ‘Brownie’ out there it lets our other players play just a little bit bigger because no one wants to mess with [Brown].” As for the popular Bronner, he has not played professionally since the 2019-20 season with Danbury, so not expecting him to come back this season.

You can submit you questions to the Hat Tricks Insider here .