Yesterday Mike and yours truly made the long trek up route 7 to Danbury to watch the player try outs for the Danbury Mad Hatters. Walking into the freezing arena was something I had missed. It was maybe 50 degrees in the arena but it was good to be back at a rink and watching hockey, not to mention sitting on steel bleachers which made everything colder.
But, getting to the players. After we grabbed a roster, we poured over it in the small hope that we would recognize a name but to no surprise, we didn't so we had to watch the players to pick our favorites. Immediately, Phil Hinrichs stood out to us and it was for good reason. If we didn't have a roster we would have thought he was Alexander Ovechkin...except on defense. He had the mirrored visor, wore number 8, and could skate like the wind. More on him and others later
It was the Blue team vs the White team for the 2 games we would see and the first game was turning into a blow out. Pat Forshner of the White team used his skill to break down the defense of the Blue team, along with Mykul Haun and Tim D'Orazio and The White team jumped out to a big lead and was dominating all aspects of the game but the Blue team wasn't going to go quietly. They began working hard, playing a physical game, and fights were breaking out but a top line anchored by Rob Himberg of the Blue team with Jason Pelle and Bill Kennedy led the way for the blue team to make a come back. The top defensive pairing of Hinrichs and speedy Dan Hickman (listed as a forward) anchored the back line while also getting the offense going.
The biggest moment of the first game came in the last 30 seconds. With the Blue team down by 1, a shot was taken and a rebound was left in front of the white goalie. Hinrichs, who we mentioned before, picked up the puck and made an unbelievable move. If anyone has seen what Pavel Datsyuk did to Marty Turco and Tomas Vokoun, it was very similar to that. To further the Ovechkin similarity, he pumped his fist in the air and continued playing.
The game went into a shootout where the best goalie of the day continued his stellar play. Anthony Felice, formerly of the Trenton Devils of the ECHL, was very good despite one soft goal. He made some big saves and then Bill Kennedy came out and scored the game winner.
Another guy that stood out was Brendan Weckbacher, a big defenseman for the Blue team was a big guy. At 6'4 220 pounds, he looked exactly like Marc Staal. Despite a few slip ups in the skating, he was very sound defensively and used his big body to shield the puck. I was hoping to see him be a bit more physical and throw the body around but his overall game was very sound. Also, a very small number 23 on the Blue team made a great move in the shootout and was very fast. His speed helped create plays and was a key part to the Blue comeback.
The second game came with a little fire. Fights broke out a bunch of times with tough guys like Mike Payne of the White team looking to really punch someone out. Morrison from the White team, who is from Ridgefield, CT, really played well in all aspects of the game. He fought, hit, and created alot of offense for the White team. Unfortunately, he took a puck to the skate and had to stop playing due to the fact he could barely walk on it.
In the end, the White team scored a goal with just over a minute to go in the game and the Blue team couldn't score despite some amazing goaltending from youngster Frank Figarole who played very well and was just as good as Anthony Felice in the goaltending department.
The day included a tour from General Manager of Business Operations Eric Horn which was a blast as well. It was a great day and really got me excited for the upcoming season.
If you would like more information on the team, make sure you keep checking here as well as the official Hatters website at www.madhattershockey.com