Q&A With Fresno Monsters Head Coach Daylon Mannon

May 13, 2023 | 2023 Articles, Sports, Steven Sanchez

by Steven Sanchez

Kings River Life had the privilege of covering the Fresno Monsters hockey team for the 2022-2023 season. It was hockey at its finest. We’ve covered the sport before, but something was different about this team. There was excitement, the fans craved watching the games after the pandemic, and through witnessing the wild finishes and the perseverance of the team, it was a very solid year.

Everybody remembers the glory days of the Fresno Falcons, but now, the era of the Monsters is here. A little background on how the team came to be.

From the team’s website:
“The Monsters were announced in spring 2009, filling a void for hockey in Fresno after the Fresno Falcons folded. The team began play in mid-September 2009, playing in Tier III Jr., a Western States Hockey League (WSHL). On December 15, 2009, the Monsters announced the organization was given expansion approval into the Tier II North American Hockey League (NAHL) for the 2010–11 season and Fresno would host two levels of junior hockey for the first time. On May 23, 2013, it was revealed the Monsters’ North American Hockey League franchise would move to Wenatchee, Washington, and become the second Wenatchee Wild. The Monsters would continue to field a team in the Western States Hockey League, now sanctioned under United Hockey Union (UHU) instead of USA Hockey, with the same ownership of David White and Shoot the Puck, Inc. In 2015, the UHU promoted the WSHL and Monsters to their own level of Tier II.”

Coach Daylon Mannon center

Under Daylon Mannon’s first year as head coach the team played in some very close games, and showed major potential. They clinched the USPHL Pacific Division title and made it to the Division Playoffs, but they didn’t win it all this year. Despite that, there’s some great things to look forward to this upcoming season.

Coach Mannon is a local boy and started playing travel hockey when he was around six years old playing for the Jr Falcons. As he got older he ended up playing for the Monsters. He ended up moving to Maryland and played in the NAHL, then came back to Fresno as an assistant. Last year he was granted the head coach position. He’s a young coach at 24, but he knows Fresno and hockey, and seeing the way the team has been playing, the Monsters are poised to make a run for the title. The entire league will know Fresno hockey means business.

We got to talk to Coach Mannon and recap last season, ask what to look forward to in the upcoming one, the positives, what can be worked on in preparation for the new schedule, the notable players of this past year, who will stand out this coming season, and what the team’s goals are as we look forward to the 2023-2024 season.

KRL: If you can put into words to describe this past season how would you best put it?

DM: Obviously not the ending that we wanted, but overall, we had a pretty good season. The team we had at the end of the year was much different than what we had at the beginning. We saw so much growth both as players and as people. From the coaching staff, seeing progress throughout the whole season is all we can ask for.

KRL: When it comes to preparing for next season what things in the team’s game are you looking to improve on? When it comes to players, what kind are you scouting for and what contributions do you need them to make to the team going forward?

DM: Looking ahead to next season, I think we need to work on a little more on defense. Later in this season we got into trouble there. We don’t plan on changing much for the scouting process. We will be looking for the right players to fit our program. Coach Jason Rivera and I have a lot of work to do. I’ll be going to Canada to watch players and he will be heading to Colorado. With the season around the corner, we’ll be ready to go.

KRL: All the players made contributions to the team, but who would you say were the top ranked on the team this season, and who are the ones to look out for next season?

DM: Jacob Gagnon was the heart of the team. As the captain he had a big role and I think all the guys really trusted him. Unfortunately, he suffered an injury, but I think all of the guys rallied around him and played for him through the back half of the season; it really made our team closer. Upon coming back, he played with a broken finger through the playoffs. I truly believe he’s the definition of a Fresno Monster. Christopher Miraldo also had an unbelievable season. The goals and points he scored are a big reason for much of the success we had, and I know a lot of the guys fed off of his energy. I’m looking forward to seeing where he will go to college and to following his career.

KRL: I grew up in Fresno during the years of the Fresno Falcons. Those days were fun. We’ve transitioned from the Falcons to the Monsters. How would you describe the hockey fanbase in Fresno?

DM: Monster fans are loyal and supportive. It has been fun to play and to coach in front of them. I remember being a fan going to the Falcons games and just being so excited; those are experiences I will never forget in my life. The fans give the boys so much energy after a goal or a hit or a fight that it fires our guys up and they want to play even harder for them. They are the reason why we play as hard as we do every night. We can’t wait to see what they bring next year.

KRL: From the games I covered, my takeaway was their fight to win, and their resiliency. When they were winning, they kept fighting, and even if they were down, they never stopped competing. Is that coachable, or is it a mindset that is built through the camaraderie of the team itself?

DM: I think it starts with our leadership. What I normally tell the guys is to play for the logo and not the name on the back. The whole team truly played Monsters hockey the entire year. As the coaching staff we asked the players to compete as hard and fast as they can every night, no matter the score, and they consistently work to show us just that.

KRL: I never played hockey, but I always enjoyed watching it. I come from football, but I did play lacrosse and it’s somewhat similar to hockey. My role as a defenseman was to hit people, be an enforcer, and set the tone. I have a defensive mindset. Do you believe in big hits to intimidate the opposing team, or is the team more about strategy and technique to stop the other teams from scoring?

DM: Our style is to play hard. Throwing big hits creates turnovers from the other team and that’s where we can capitalize on the offense. I think making those big hits gets the fans involved and creates momentum for us. There is also a bit of strategy from the coaching side. We like to tell our players during the game when we see something that needs to be changed.

KRL: Every team has a motto, an oath that the team embodies to win. What is that motto for the Fresno Monsters?

DM: “Get your work boots on and compete every night.”

KRL: This is my first time covering the team. I was wondering who you would consider your rival? The team or teams against whom you play a little harder. You know it’s going to be a dog fight against them. And who are the teams to look out for next season?

DM: The Las Vegas Thunderbirds are our rival. They have a very good program that we’ve had lots of battles with. The date we play them is circled on the calendar. Rolling into next season though, I think a new rival is coming. Just down the highway is the Bakersfield Roughnecks, and we have started the newest tradition of the Battle of 99 series.

KRL: As an example, I’m a Raiders fan, and you can describe their style of play when it comes to football is the long ball, attack, take what you want, pressure the quarterback, take away the passing game. In that regard how do you describe the style of play of the Fresno Monsters?

DM: I coach that our style needs to be ‘hard to play against:’ as simple as that. This means creating offense and giving a full 60 minutes.

KRL: I see that the team is heavily involved in the community. How important is giving back to the community and what other community events do you have planned in the future?

DM: It’s extremely important to us for the Monsters to be heavily involved in the community. We urge the boys to immerse themselves in this town. It’s our job as coaches to not only make them better hockey players but to make them better human beings. The community comes out and supports us. The least we can do is show our support and give back to them. As far as next year, we will be reading to kids and visiting schools, assisting, and visiting the elderly, community service cleaning up Fresno, and more. Please reach out to our staff if you can think of ways we can help you.

KRL: It’s not the same roster every year. There are always news players. How do you get new guys to interact with the established players, have them get along, and share a common goal?

DM: At the beginning of the year we do a lot of team building activities. From going to places like Yosemite or the beach, to social activities in town. Some of the boys live together in their billet house which helps them to bond off the ice. We try to spend a lot of time together and really develop as a family.

KRL: Obviously winning championships is the goal for every season, but deep down within the team what are the end goals for next season?

DM: My goals for next season are simply developing the kids and making sure everyone has a career after hockey. Funneling them into their next stages of life, whether that is going to school or to play professional hockey overseas.

Steven Sanchez is a film graduate of UNLV. He’s a filmmaker, writer, photographer, and music manager. Obsessed with movies, comic books, and rock ‘n’ roll. A football fanatic, big fan of the Oakland Raiders. Enjoys reading and collecting vinyl records. If there’s a rock show in town more than likely he’ll be there. Loves his grandma’s home cooked meals. He has a twin sister and most people call him the pretty one. You can learn more about Steven on his YouTube channel and on Instagram @stevensanchez5807 photos and videos.


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