Tricks earn first franchise win, split weekend in Carolina

by Casey Bryant

Matyas Kasek fights for the puck in a 3-2 victory (11/8/19)

Danbury finally worked their way into the win column Friday night, spoiling the Carolina Thunderbirds' banner-raising ceremony (or what was left of it, after the banner came tumbling down to the ice after an equipment malfunction).

After falling behind 2-0 early, the Hat Tricks gradually clawed their way back into contest starting with a Jonny Ruiz breakaway goal in the second period. Then, with 12 seconds remaining in the frame, Matyas Kasek netted his first of the season, a one-timer from the slot fed on the powerplay by Cory Anderson.

The momentum shift carried into the final frame, as Nicola Levesque snuck a stuff-in try under Henry Dill's leg pad. Carolina would rifle several last-second chances towards the Hat Tricks' net, but newcomer Dillon Kelley stood tall in net to finish the job.

Kelley would stop 45 of 47 shots rifled his way to hand the Thunderbirds their first loss of the season.

The back-and-forth Helter-Skelter action would carry over into Saturday's contest. Vladyslav Gavrik began the scoring with a zone entry shot that redirected off a defensive stick to the back of the net.

Carolina would accumulate three unanswered goals before Gordy Bonnel stopped the bleeding midway through the second period. Minutes later, Kyle Gonzalez evened up the score with a powerplay goal on the rush as a perfect Jonny Ruiz pass found its way through the defense to the doorstep.

The Thunderbirds would pot two more on Dillon Kelley, making his second consecutive start. Jonny Ruiz would cut the deficit to just one heading into the third period.

Despite the Hat Tricks beginning the third on the powerplay, a Daniel Martin shorthanded goal (his third marker of the game) proved to be the difference-maker. Though Kendall Bolen-Porter would pot his first goal of the season in just his second game, the Hat Tricks ran out of time and out of magic, once more dropping a one-goal game by a score of 6-5.

"I thought we played hard this weekend," head coach Billy McCreary said. "It always feels good to get that first win, we battled hard. [Carolina] is a good team. We're going to take the positives from the weekend, we'll go over the film, learn from it and build on it going forward."

Of Danbury's five losses so far on the year, three of them have been by just one goal, two in overtime. One was by two goals by virtue of a Danville empty-netter with a second remaining on the clock. 

In other words, the Hat Tricks have come excruciatingly close to victory on numerous occasions already this year.

To take the defending champs to the wire in not one but two games on the road, with one of them resulting in a victory, is a significant accomplishment in the early stages of the inaugural season.