INSIDER: Hat Tricks ‘work in progress’ under MacIsaac’s leadership

by Jim Cerny, Hat Tricks Insider

The Danbury Hat Tricks have won four of their first five games and have the best points percentage in the FPHL (.733), but that doesn’t mean coach Dave MacIsaac is preparing to add another championship ring to his collection just yet.

“Right now, we’re a work in progress,” MacIsaac said ahead of a road game at the Watertown Wolves on Friday and a rematch at Danbury Arena on Saturday.

The Hat Tricks have let multiple-goal leads disappear in each game this season and have seen several such third-period leads evaporate, though the positive is that they’ve recovered with three regulation wins and one in overtime standing up against their one regulation defeat.

Yet it’s fresh in MacIsaac’s mind how Danbury nearly let a big lead slip away in Port Huron against the Prowlers last Friday, nor the fact that a parade to the penalty box cost his team in their first loss the following night against the same opponent.

“Discipline is definitely a factor in our third periods, we lost that game the other night just on lack of discipline,” MacIsaac said. “Then that game [Friday], we’ve got a four-goal lead and we’ve just got to put them away and have an easy game with all of these hard games in a row.

“The hope is you learn from these games and you don’t make the same mistakes moving forward.”

One thing the Hat Tricks have on their side in working through these issues is the man behind the bench. MacIsaac played 14 seasons as a rugged defenseman in the minor leagues and is in his fourth season -- and first with the Hat Tricks -- as a minor-league coach.

The 49-year-old often was team captain in his playing days; and he helped the Philadelphia Phantoms win the Calder Cup as champion of the American Hockey League in 1997-98. He also helped the University of Maine win the NCAA title in 1992-93.

In short, there’s not much MacIsaac has not seen nor done when it comes to hockey.

“You hear the stories from his playing days and how great a leader he was … so his leadership is something we look up to,” Danbury captain Jonny Ruiz said. “These games we’ve played could have been a rollercoaster of emotions, but he kept his in check. When your coach is calm during stressful times, it really helps you as a player to feed off someone like that.”

Defenseman Aaron Atwell noted that MacIsaac is “a man of few words, but his words have weight to them.”

Atwell added that the players appreciate their coach for his direct yet calm nature.

“It’s really easy for the players to digest everything he says,” Atwell explained

It helps that the Hat Tricks can outscore many of their mistakes, too. Led by Ruiz, who has a team-high six goals and eight points in five games, the Hat Tricks average five goals per game.

“Jonny has done a great job,” MacIsaac said. “Our whole team is getting it done offensively.”

Rookie forward Tobias Odjick, son of former NHL forward Gino Odjick, has impressed with six points (two goals, four assists) in his first three games, earning a promotion to play on the top line with Ruiz and Gordy Bonnel.

Here too, though, the coach remains grounded.

“He’s been a very pleasant surprise and if he can keep it up, he’s going to be a real important part of this team,” MacIsaac said. “It’s a small sample size, but so far, so good.”

It’s that even-keeled approach that has MacIsaac winning his players over as he molds the Hat Tricks into a contender.

“I really love it so far,” Ruiz said. “I can’t wait to see what’s in store for us with [MacIsaac] behind the bench this season”