HicKEY To Success
By now, Monarchs Country knows the story of how the Manchester Monarchs made the Calder Cup Playoffs in the last weekend of the 2011-12 regular season. What may have gone unnoticed is the role in which defenseman Thomas Hickey played in the success of the Monarchs throughout last season but especially toward the end of the 2011-12 campaign.
In addition to leading the Monarchs defensively, Hickey set-up the game-winning goal in the regular season finale against the Atlantic Division Champion St. John’s IceCaps to clinch a playoff berth. With the Monarchs on the power play, Hickey launched a one-timer from the blueline that produced a rebound for defenseman Patrick Mullen to bang in the rebound. The goal capped a three-goal first period and proved to be the game-winning goal as they won the game 4-2, fending off a third period comeback.
Monarchs Head Coach Mark Morris has trusted Hickey in almost every situation including power plays, shorthanded penalty kills and many other situations that may have arose throughout the last three seasons.
“He has become extremely versatile,” said Morris. “He has been a good penalty killer. He has been a key member of the power play and you rely and can count on him in key moments in the game that he will have his assignments covered and execute the game plan.”
The defenseman is glad he has the trust of his teammates and the coaching staff.
“Obviously, you want to be out there in every situation,” said Hickey. “You have to make sure that the coach has the trust in you so you have to work at all those parts whether it is shorthanded or power play or in the last minute of the game. If we are up or down, I want to be in all those situations. You have to be good at both ends of the ice and that is something that throughout the season you have to consistently do well and you will get those opportunities more and more.”
Hickey has proven to be one of the most consistent blueliners for the Monarchs over the last couple of seasons and only seemed to get stronger as the season progressed last year. In the 2012 Calder Cup Playoffs against the Norfolk Admirals, Hickey recorded four assists in four games, including two assists in Game 2 in which the Monarchs ended the Admirals record breaking 29-game winning streak.
“I feel like that every year and obviously you don’t just want to play good right at the end of the year,” recalled Hickey. “You want to carry it all the way through but I think the intensity of those games and the importance was a lot higher and we needed those. As a player, you get up for it easier and there is nothing to save it for because we knew if we didn’t do well in that last weekend or in playoffs then your going home. I definitely think that was a level above the rest of my play throughout the year but it was for a reason because it was for an important time. Hopefully I can bring more of that during the regular season as well.
Morris has seen Hickey’s progression first hand and has witnessed a smarter and stronger hockey player.
“Thomas has been getting stronger every year,” said Morris. “He has done a real good job in building his game in all areas. The biggest thing that is noticeable to those who have watched his progress is he has gotten stronger and I think that leads to a lot of positive things in his game. I think he carries himself with confidence. He plays better position and has more poise with the puck to distribute it where it needs to go at the appropriate times. He has an improved shot and I think he picks his spots with prude decision making. I think that every year, he has become a better leader and has a more complete game.”
The 2012-13 season is just around the corner and the players have been in the gym working out and increasing the intensity of their skating and conditioning. Hickey also knows the season is fast approaching and is starting to get the itch to play hockey again.
“Yes, that is starting to come,” said Hickey. “I think you always feel like that when you are in the gym. Enough is enough at one point but at the same time, I want to feel ready on the ice before I get that itch to come back and I have just been starting to skate a lot for really the last two to three weeks. I think once you start getting your game back out on the ice, you sort of get the itch to get back and get camp underway. As the week ends and the next one roles around, I am getting to that point where you start thinking about the hockey season and you start getting excited (for it). It is pretty much grind time now with camp potentially right around the corner.”