Ducks down, but not out in USPHL playoff race

While showing some signs of snapping out of a funk that has plagued the Dells Ducks junior hockey team since early November, the team was definitely limping when it headed into the USPHL Premier League playoffs.
Certainly, the wins Nov. 2-3 against the Midwest-West division leading Hudson Havoc had to be a high point for the local club as the Havoc has only dropped three other games in regulation through the entire regular season – 28 games, to date.
When they followed it up with back to back wins in Chicago against the host Cougars the following weekend, things were looking up for the Ducks, but that’s where the season kind of fell off a cliff.
After the Chicago wins, the Ducks headed to Beantown where it dropped all four games played in a Showcase tournament. The woes continued on its return, the losing skid opening up to seven games before the Ducks finally picked up a 5-4 win against the Minnesota Blue Ox on the road Dec. 15. The Ducks fell the following day to the Minnesota Mullets and dropped three of four at the Midwest Showcase tournament heading into the Christmas Break.
The 117 goals against the Ducks is second highest in the Midwest-West Division behind only the massive 172 scored against the Kasson Vipers.
The Ducks challenged as a division front-runner early this season but now the team enters its final 11 games 10 points away from garnering home ice advantage in the opening round of the post season. In fact, if the post season started today, the Ducks would rank seventh and face the challenge of finding a way to defeat the Minnesota Moose, the same team that ended its season two games into the playoffs a year ago.
The season is far from over. The Ducks have shown it can win against the league’s top teams and that will be put to the test immediately after returning as the Ducks will being in Hudson against the division leading Havoc – the same team it earned that sweep against in early November. Of its final 11, only three will be on home ice, but the final four will all be against the two teams that currently trail the Ducks in division standings.
Getting home ice advantage might be a longshot now, but the team could still gain some momentum through the final weeks and use it to advantage as a playoff underdog.
The final six weeks will be a crucial time for the Ducks to become playoff ready.


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