Last night the Danbury Mad Hatters hosted the Hudson Valley Bears in a Saturday night match up. While the EPHL is barely two months old, the frequency of teams playing each other is building rivalries. However, the rivalry between the Bears and the Hatters runs deep.
There is absolutely no love loss, as the teams were chatting and yelling at each other on the ice. At one point, there was almost a repeat of last Saturday, as it seemed the benches would clear for another bench brawl.
General Manager Brendan Tedstone was behind the bench for the Hatters as Coach Dave MacIsaac sat in the stands serving the first game of his suspension which should be announced early this week along with other punishments from the league office for last Saturday's "extra-curricular" activities.
But back to this game. The Hatters came out flat. They were going up against a team that has a few good players but many who are not. Yet, they found themselves down two goals within the first 10 minutes of the game.
Len DiCostanzo, the Bears goalie, was stopping everything in sight and some that were not, doing his best Patrick Roy impression as the Hatters rained shots down on him. This continued into the second period, baffling the Hatters.
At the end of the middle frame, DiCostanzo had turned away all 40 shots by the Hatters.
Needless to say, the Hatters needed a spark to get the crowd into the game. The Bears were hanging on for dear life, with only DiCostanzo keeping them in the game.
It could be argued that Igor Karlov's goal just 32 seconds into the third period was the spark and it probably was until Hank Carisio began being a man on a mission. Having already fought once in the game Carisio was looking to make an impact again. However, it was on the score-sheet that the impact would be made.
Devin Guy of the Bears took a tripping penalty at the 5:43 mark. With Carisio on the powerplay, he powered his way from the corner to the front of the net and stuffed the puck past DiCostanzo to tie the game. The crowd of 1,294 exploded as the game was tied.
What Carisio did next has to be the most innovative goal celebration I have ever seen, and quite possibly the funniest. After celebrating on the ice with the players he picked up the puck he had just scored with and gave it to Bears "tough guy" Phil Esposito.
The entire Bears bench exploded in rage but did not get on the ice. While Carisio got an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, which he should not have because that was the best thing I have ever seen at a hockey game, he however won over the fans of Danbury.
However, his night was not done just yet. Apparently, he got marked by the Bears. Later in the period he came through the neutral zone with his head down. Just after he dished the puck off to Erik Kent to bring into the zone he was run over by Dan Malloy of the Bears.
Kent went in and scored the goal to give the Hatters the lead but Carisio was down on the ice and did not seem to be moving.
Let me start by saying that the hit was absolutely clean. If any video should be made about why you should keep your head up at all times, this would have been the perfect hit to show. See Scott Stevens on Lindros or Kariya for a reference point.
A hush descended on the crowd as Carisio looked to be seriously injured. Scott Horvath of the Bears called for the paramedics while the trainer, Tedstone, and some players for the Hatters came out to help. They got him to his knees, with Carisio having a cut on his face and looking coherent as he was talking and moving which was a great sign.
When the neck brace was put on he ripped it off, stood up and skated off the ice on his own power to a standing ovation from the crowd. He wanted to stay on the ice but instead took a seat behind the Hatters goal to watch the rest of the game.
Most players would not have gotten up after a hit like that. But skating off the ice, Carisio had won the hearts of the Danbury faithful and is definitely the fan favorite.
The game was not over, however. The lead was short lived as a breakaway for John Geverd just over a minute later tied the game at three.
A bad penalty by the Bears with just under two minutes left in the game lead to their undoing. With 32 seconds left, Obi Aduba scored a power play goal that would seal the deal.
Hank Carisio has earned the name "The Hulk" from me because of one thing, whether he is driven to fight or score, you would not like him when he is angry. He finished with a Gordie Howe hat trick.
If you have not had a chance to check out a Hatters game yet, I strongly recommend you do so. These games are an absolute blast and are very affordable. Hope to see the stands draw more every night.