by Chris Lynch

Danbury, CT - The Danbury Hat Tricks and Carolina Thunderbirds concluded a competitive, harshly fought series with a legendary game that Danbury emerged from with a 3-2 overtime victory and the Commissioner’s Cup. 

Danbury opened the scoring 56 seconds in courtesy of Michael Marchesan’s first goal of the Finals off a rebound generated by a Brendan Sheehan shot on Thunderbird goaltender Gregory Hussey. The Thunderbirds tilted the ice in their favor for the remainder of the opening stanza, outshooting the Hat Tricks 19-6 after Danbury got the game’s first three shots in the first minute of the frame. Josh Koepplinger landed the equalizer with 51 seconds left in the opening stanza to send the game into the intermission tied 1-1.

While killing a penalty early in the second period, Jonny Ruiz took a hard hit from Tucker Firth that resulted in the Hat Tricks’ Captain’s blood on the ice and a five-minute major penalty against Firth. On the ensuing power play, Tobias Odjick put the Hat Tricks ahead with his fourth goal of the playoffs 4:14 in. Danbury had a few more chances, including with Marchesan hitting the post, but only got one power play goal and took their 2-1 lead into the intermission. 

Carolina hammered the net with 11 shots in the final stanza, and on the seventh Thunderbirds power play of the night -a major power play against Brendan Sheehan- Carolina finally paid the chance off thanks to Jiri Pestuka with 5:55 left in regulation. Neither team scored again in regulation, so the game entered a tense overtime. 

In the extra session, both teams had their looks in front of a nervously excited Danbury Ice Arena, and both goaltenders made significant saves that kept the game going. But ultimately, the home team struck gold and claimed the title. 

Xavier Abdella slalomed through the neutral zone and fired a shot on Greg Hussey and generated a rebound off his pad. Michael Marchesan collected the rebound and fired a shot into Hussey’s five hole that trickled across the line 11:58 into the overtime session to land the Hat Tricks their first Commissioner’s Cup in franchise history.

For his heroics, Marchesan was awarded the FPHL’s Playoff MVP Award. The Burlington, Ontario native, who was held off the goal counter for the first four games of the Finals, recorded two goals in the championship deciding game and 8 for the playoffs to pair with 5 assists for a total of 13 points in nine playoff games. 

The assist was Abdella’s first point of the postseason. 

Brian Wilson performed heroically, stopping 40 shots and getting every playoff win for the Hat Tricks. 

Greg Hussey stopped 28 of 31 shots in the Carolina net.

The Thunderbirds won the Continental Division and made an impressive run to the FPHL Championship series, winning 40 games in the regular season. 

The Hat Tricks won a league high 44 games in the regular season and won all six home games at the Danbury Ice Arena to claim the Commissioner’s Cup.