Familiar faces return as Dashers host Thunder

A plethora of familiar faces will be seeing a different side of the ice this weekend when the Delaware Thunder make their first appearance at the David S. Palmer Arena, taking on the Danville Dashers in Federal Prospects Hockey League Action.

Friday and Saturday’s games, which feature both a kid’s night on Friday, and a Faith & Family Night sponsored by Robinson Chiropractic at the Palmer Arena in Danville, will feature some familiar faces to Dashers fans, including a few players who played big roles in last year’s team that, thanks to many bumps along the road, finished disappointingly.

This year, however, when former Dashers like Aaron Taylor, Ryan Marker, Eric Masters, Taylor Cutting, Charlie Pens Jr., Alex Basey and Brian Dunford (whew, that’s a lot) return to the Danville, they’ll see a different team entirely.

Under Head Coach Ray Tremblay’s leadership this season, and the notable addition and retention of many talented players, the Dashers have risen through a tough Western conference to sit in second place, behind the Carolina Thunderbirds, the far-and-away league leaders this season. Delaware, on the other side, sits in last place in a tough Eastern Conference, winning just 8 games on the season and sitting on a 5-game losing streak.

That doesn’t mean that the former Dashers haven’t had their bright spots.

Last year’s leading scorer for Danville (despite refusing to rejoin the team after the midway point) Ryan Marker is having an absolutely prolific season in his return to the FPHL, and sits as the league’s leading goal-scorer, with 31 goals on the season to pair with 24 assists in 30 games played.

Marker is the clear scoring leader on the visiting Thunder, but behind him are two other talented forwards in Anton Kalinin (who also played a brief stint with the Watertown Wolves this season), and Evgenii Demin. Sitting firmly in the fourth-spot in goal scoring is defensemen Daniel DiCristofaro, who has 20 points in 29 games played.

Though Delaware has had what you could call a tough go at it during their first season as an FPHL expansion team, they’ve had their bright spots, and also boast a 3.4 goals for average, despite having a goal differential of -41 on the year.

Goaltender Aaron Taylor, who served as primarily the backup goaltender to Matt Kaludis last year for the Dashers, has struggled this year so far, letting in 4.61 goals per game, with an 8-18 record on the season. Taylor can be a dynamic goaltender when he has defense in front of him, and if Delaware can step up their defensive game, it could shift the balance of the weekend tilt.

The Dashers will look to get Taylor uneasy early and often in his return to Danville, and rebound from a tough, physical weekend series against the Columbus River Dragons. That’s not to say that they’ll be able to even take an eye off of the dynamic scoring line of Marker, Kalinin and Demin.

The Dashers defense will face a tough test from the Eastern Conference in slowing down a talented, but not particularly deep, Delaware offense.

The Thunder are in town and both sides are eagerly awaiting what will be a type of reunion for some on the David S. Palmer Arena Ice. The puck drop both Friday and Saturday are at 7:05pm CST and will be live streamed on the Danville Dashers’ YouTube Channel. Nate Williamson will have the call, and Dennis Michelsen will provide color commentary.

Friday night is a Kid’s Night at the Arena courtesy of Dishman Inflatables, where kids get in free with a paid adult. Saturday night is Faith & Family night sponsored by Robinson Chiropractic, and fans are encouraged to come dressed as their favorite Toy Story character.