GAME RECAP: Rockers at Danbury Hat Tricks 12/1/23
GAME RECAP: Rockers at Watertown Wolves 12/3/23

GAME RECAP: Rockers at Danbury Hat Tricks 12/2/23

Danbury 12-2-23

It's hard to focus on, or really care about, the outcome of this game, given the event that happened in the first period, more on that shortly. Thankfully, the injured player involved is doing as well as he can given the circumstances. So I'll recap the second, and final, meeting of the season between the Motor City Rockers and Danbury Hat Tricks, with the disclaimer that, as I said, the stats and results of this game ultimately mean little in the grand scheme of things when you see a player, I don't care on what team, but in this instance it was Motor City, taken off the ice on a stretcher.

It was the same goaltending match-up as it was Friday night, with Trevor Babin back in net for Motor City and Connor McCollum for Danbury. Things started out great for the Rockers at 6:02 when TJ Delaney sped up ice, avoided a hit, and sent it to the slot where Jonathan Juliano was waiting to blast it past McCollum for his fourth of the season and 1-0 lead. Barely a minute later, Pavel Svintsov picked the pocket of Danbury defenseman John Macdonald, sent it over to Danny Vanderwiel who passed it in front to a streaking Brad Reitter for his fourth of the season at 7:22 to make it 2-0 Motor City. But there was little time to celebrate due to what happened right as the goal was scored. Vanderwiel was hit into the boards by Danbury goon Daniel Amesbury and went down. I have no issue with the timing of the hit, if you watch the replay, Amesbury is looking to finish the check as players do. The hit and goal occur practically simultaneously. The issue, and it's a big one, is Amesbury gets his arms up and delivers a blow to the back of Vanderwiel's neck as he is going into the boards face first. It's absolutely inexcusable and a reckless play from a player who already has a history of this crap. I love tough guys, I love that minor league hockey still has its share of fights, hard, but clean, hits and brawls. There is no place in any level of hockey for a hit like that. It was a scary scene, no one wants to see a player taken off on a stretcher, and I am sure it affected the Motor City players seeing their captain injured in that way. Both Elias Thompson and Trevor Babin skated towards the penalty box where Amesbury was sitting, but the officials were able to diffuse the situation from getting any uglier. When play did resume, Danbury was able to tie things up fairly quickly on a shorthanded goal by Jonny Ruiz at 11:04 and an even strength goal by Brandon Stojcevski at 13:43 to make it 2-2 after one.   

I can't imagine how difficult it is to resume playing hockey after an incident like that, but that is what athletes do and the Rockers were able to re-take the lead at 11:27 of the second, this time on a shorthanded goal of their own. Brad Reitter picked off an errant outlet pass from the goalie McCollum and headed in on a two-on-one, sending the perfect pass to Pavel Svintsov who scored his fifth goal of the season to make it 3-2 Motor City. But less than a minute later Daniel McKitrick was able to get it right back for Danbury with his third goal of the season at 12:13 to send it to the second intermission tied at three.

The Rockers lost Declan Conway early in the third period when he was called for a roughing penalty and let the officials know what he thought of it, good for an abuse of officials misconduct. On his way off the ice Conway gave the Danbury faithful the old Middle Finger Salute with a crotch point to top it off, earning him a lewd/inappropriate gesture misconduct as well. Things stayed even until the 14:40 mark. After a number of good chances for the Rockers, Sam Dabrowski sent the puck towards center ice where Nick DiNicola put on the jets, got behind the Motor City defense and beat Babin on a backhander to put the Hat Tricks up 4-3. The Rockers pulled Babin for the extra man to try to get the equalizer but Danbury was able to hold them off and even added an empty net goal as time expired from Jacob Ratcliffe to make it a 5-3 final.

The loss was the Rockers first of the season in regulation time after picking up at least a point in their first thirteen games. Their record now sits at 7-1-3-2, good for 28 points. More important, is the health of Danny Vanderwiel. The latest report from the team is that he has thankfully been released from the hospital and has rejoined the team, although he has suffered a concussion. Given the circumstances, and the dirtiness of the hit, it could have been a lot worse and I know Rockers fans are thankful that is not the case. In the aftermath, the FPHL handed out a two game suspension to Declan Conway for the obscene gestures to the Danbury fans on his way off the ice. That's unfortunate as he had just returned from a one game suspension, but as funny a moment as it was, you know the league is not going to let that slide. As for Amesbury, the league handed down an eighteen game suspension for the hit on Vanderwiel, noting his status as a repeat offender for the extended suspension. Will he learn from it? Time will tell, but this isn't his first dirty hit, given his track record it probably won't be his last. The Rockers now travel to Watertown, New York for a Sunday evening meeting with the Wolves, their third game in three nights.  


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