The Danbury Jr. Hat Tricks kicked off their NAHL season in style, taking down the reigning East Division champion New Jersey Titans in a 3-2 overtime thriller.
Things got off to a physical start, as New Jersey’s Matthew Iasenza and Danbury’s Valentino Passarelli tangled behind the Jr. Hat Tricks’ net early in the first period. After a series of chippy shifts, the Jr. Hat Tricks broke through first, as Hunter McCurdy beat goaltender Berk Berkeliev with a wrist shot from the high slot for an early 1-0 Danbury lead.
New Jersey would answer back before period’s end. With less than a minute remaining in the frame, Jake LaRusso shanked a shot on the powerplay off the glass, which took a lively bounce to the blue paint. Danbury defenseman Kyle Gudme, in an attempt to clear the crease, punched the puck into his own net to even the score.
The Titans ramped up their offensive pressure in the second period, as an extensive shift late in the second period resulted in Joe Schubert banging home a rebound in front of the Danbury net.
Danbury made the proper adjustments in the third, as Alexander Krause struck early to even up the score. Despite a flurry of chances, Berkeliev held firm for the Titans to send the game into overtime.
The Jr. Hat Tricks caught a break in the overtime period, as defenseman Nolan Barrett drew a tripping penalty to give Danbury a 4-on-3 powerplay. It didn’t take long for the Tricks to strike, as Barrett himself potted the game-winner on a wrist shot that rang off the iron and found twine.
“We were really battling and creating a lot of o-zone chances throughout the overtime,” Barrett said after the game. “We were a little sluggish in the first but the legs felt better as the game went on. Gotta get back after it [tomorrow].”
“I saw a lot of resiliency tonight,” commented head coach Billy McCreary. “There’s a lot of character in that room. They believed until the end, and we started to get some bounces.”
McCreary harkened back to the Jr. Hat Tricks’ first preseason game against the Northeast Generals, in which Danbury scored first just 14 seconds into the game. Early momentum is key for his squad, he explained.
“We’ve got a good skating team with some offensive punch, so we don’t want to wait on that. We want to get teams on their heels right away.”
Danbury will play host to the Titans for the second round of the weekend set Saturday night at 7:00pm on HockeyTV.com.