It has taken me a few weeks since our season ended with a tough playoff defeat in New Jersey on Saturday, April 3 to gather my thoughts about this unprecedented and challenging season. Every season is unique, but the 2020-21 season will be one that will be remembered for a very long time because of the many impacts of the COVID-19 virus that affected the season, both on and off the ice. I am extremely proud of everyone associated with our organization for their unwavering commitment to each other and our goals. This commitment enabled us to finish our regular season 23-13, reaching a highwater mark in Danbury NA3HL history of ten games over .500. For the second year in a row, we finished in second place in our division, earned home ice in the playoffs and won more than 20 games. We also have seen six 2020-21 and another 2019-20 player make college commitments, with more to come! All of this while constantly battling COVID-19 and the associated restrictions.
When our season began with our first practice on August 31 no one could have predicted the twists and turns the season would take. Our home opener was a tough loss to the Northeast Generals on Saturday, October 3, but we were able to play our first seven games to open the season without much incident until Friday, November 6. That is not to say that everything was normal; not by a long shot. Regular testing, masks, quarantines, travel restrictions and other accommodations to try to keep COVID-19 at bay were consistent reminders that things were definitely not normal. After some starts and stops for the rest of November, we were limited to skills sessions with four people on the ice for all of December and most of January. These sessions were a grind, but gave all of us a chance to work closely together and focus on individual player development. It was extremely exciting to return to full team practices and eventually games as January concluded. After waiting nearly three months between games seven and eight of our season we returned to play with a 3-2 win over the Bay State Bobcats on Sunday, January 31. That was when the fun began! We played 31 games, including our two playoff games, between January 31 and April 3. For the second year in a row, we concluded our regular season on a tear with a 13-4 record in March.
There are so many people who played a huge role in making this incredible season possible. Their efforts are not taken for granted and will not be forgotten.
My first thank you is to our ownership and management team who supported our program steadfastly through all the challenges of the season. Bill and Jim Diamond, Chris Buonanno, Herm Sorcher, Colton Orr and Boe Trumbull provided invaluable guidance and resources to help ensure that we played a full season. Their willingness to let us relocate to Smead Arena in Springfield, MA to keep our season going when Connecticut would not interstate travel for sports was a lifesaver. It was also a huge lift to our team to feel their genuine excitement for our successes down the stretch of our regular season and leading into our playoffs.
Another huge thank you goes out to all the staff at Danbury Arena. They did everything in their power to keep us safe and make the Arena a home away from home. Under the leadership of the aforementioned Boe Trumbull; Nick Garofalo, Jarol Mendoza and Grace Rudick worked tirelessly to ensure that our ever-changing schedule was disrupted as little as possible. Giovanni Luongo and Ben Utter spearheaded the charge to keep our ice surface among the very best in the NA3HL. Christian Gardeki did a great job bringing his boundless energy as our in-arena announcer and host. Combined these fantastic people kept the Arena going strong throughout the most challenging of years and made playing in Danbury a true home ice advantage.
Amy Schneider, Erin Koukopoulos and Paul Fernandes did a tremendous job keeping our players on the ice as well as helping them get back on the ice as quickly as possible when they did sustain injuries. Thank you to all three of you for your caring, professionalism and expertise. In an all too often thankless role, you each excelled and allowed our players to focus on their development.
Thank you to all of our NA3HL East Division opponents. Every organization worked together to ensure that we were all able to deliver a full season to our very deserving players. From constantly revising schedules to relocating to other states to countless Zoom Meetings to lending each other a helping hand whenever possible, every coach, general manager and organizational representative put all of the players first and played a vital part in making this crazy season a success. Thanks to al of you!
With so many games on the road, and even many of our home games being played in front of limited or no spectators, our families leaned on our broadcasts and social media outlets more than ever. I cannot thank Zak McGinniss enough for making our broadcast the best around. His preparation and ability to make viewers feel the energy of the game are unmatched. Thank you to Casey Bryant (best of luck in Danville, by the way!) for his assistance with all things media and to Kelly Stein for her constant willingness to lend her expertise to my efforts as well as helping me ensure that our postings reflected the mission and values of our program.
A massive thank you to Associate Coach Brian Allen. I could write an entire article thanking this amazing human being for his phenomenal work ethic, support and friendship the past two years. As he moves on to Worcester State to serve as an Assistant Coach on the Lancers’ staff I am filled with pride. He will be an incredible asset to the players and staff there, just like he was here in Danbury. I cannot wait to watch him help the Lancers reach new heights. Coach Allen, not one Danbury NA3HL player will ever forget the impact that you have had on them, and neither will I.
An enormous thank you to our families for their patience, understanding and steadfast support throughout this pressure-packed season. You watched us in person, both at home and on the road. You watched us on HockeyTV. You shared scores and commentary on our team app. You supported each and every member of our organization through the ups and downs of this wild and unpredictable season. So many of you extended a helping hand whenever it was needed. From holiday meals at Chestnut to pre or postgame meals on the road to turning out in droves for Family Weekend, you were with us every step of the way. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all of you for trusting me and Coach Allen with your sons. This goes for our billet families as well (huge thank you to Coach Brian Walsh for helping us connect with these angels!). The Flemings, Griffiths, McCollums and Sturdavents opened their homes when we needed them the most. The families that made up this amazing team gave of themselves, trusted each other and made this amazing season possible.
Lastly, thank you to our players. You guys are the reason that all of this happened. You are a truly incredible group of young men who individually and collectively represented yourselves and our organization in the best possible way. I know how challenging so many aspects of our season were. You refused to quit on each other and our team, even during the darkest of days in December and January when none of us knew when we would play again. You played your hearts out down the stretch (again!) earning home ice in the playoffs the hard way. I truly believe that each of you has grown as a player and a young man during your time in Danbury. I am so proud of each of you and I hope that as your academic and athletic journeys continue you will fondly remember your time in Danbury. I am certain that I will be following each of you as your careers continue and rooting for you to realize all of your dreams.
Thank you ALL for an amazing two years in Danbury!