Insider: Hat Tricks open season motivated by ‘unfinished business’
DANBURY, CT – The Danbury Hat Tricks and their fans have been waiting 601 days for this specific day.
And when coach Dave MacIsaac blew his whistle and gathered the players together on the ice Thursday at 12:40 p.m. officially bringing an end to training camp, the script flipped to their 2021-22 regular-season opener against the Port Huron Prowlers at Danbury Arena on Friday.
“It’s going to be an electric feeling, packed arena,” forward Cory Anderson said. “It’s one of the reasons why we do this for a living, we want to win for this city, for these fans, especially.”
Which brings up the theme for this season.
“We’ve got unfinished business,” center Jonny Ruiz said.
When the Hat Tricks last played a game, it was March 2020. They were 31-12-3 (94 points), believing they had what it would take to win the FPHL championship.
Then the season, and life as we all knew it, changed dramatically. The coronavirus raged, the FPHL shut down its season and the players went home.
“It was a pretty hard feeling … we were rolling, top of the Eastern Division,” Ruiz recalled. “It was one of the most fun teams I’ve ever played on, everyone got along. It was a family.
“So, not being able to hold up that trophy at the end of the year, get some rings for your brothers, kind of hurt.”
The players, coaches and management understood that health and safety took precedence over competing for a title. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t sting.
Nor does it mean returning players like Anderson, Ruiz, Aaron Atwell, Steve Mele, Gordy Bonnel, Matyas Kasek, Steve Brown and Kenny Garrett are not extra motivated this season, especially after the Hat Tricks did not play in 2020-21 because of the pandemic either.
“That abrupt stop when I felt like we were going to take everything … not actually getting it makes us a lot hungrier now, so we want to go grab it,” Atwell said.
Anderson said the foundation began to take shape this week in training camp, when the veteran players let the newcomers know what the expectations are this season.
“We’ve got returning guys and some new guys, but the mentality doesn’t change … winning the Eastern Division (two seasons ago), that should be a bar for everyone in this organization,” Anderson said. “I don’t see any reason why we can’t make a run for the title.”
That’s exactly what MacIsaac wants to hear from his players.
“These guys accomplished a lot a couple years ago … and we’re going to hang an Eastern Division champions banner (Friday) for what they did,” said MacIsaac, who is in his first season as coach. “But COVID happened and everything got shut down so they never had a chance to finish that championship.
“So, that’s what everyone’s goal is this season. To win it all.”