Let’s Get it Started – 2011
In the past nine years, I would estimate the Ducks have played somewhere around 500 hockey games – maybe a few more. That includes regular season, playoffs, pre-season and exhibitions against College teams.
But one of their best was regular season game number one.
The Ducks opened the 2011-12 Minnesota Junior Hockey League season with a road trip to the Twin Cities, a patch of interstate I have become extremely familiar with in the past decade. The first game was in Bloomington against the Twin City Northern Lights.
Being our first game, we were new to traditions such as the five-minute and three-minute horn and in Bloomington, the Teddy Bear Toss. Hometown fans purchased, or more accurately rented a stuffed animal upon arriving at the game and then threw it on the ice following the team’s first goal.
The game itself was the best part, it seemed a back and forth contest won by the Ducks by a goal (either 3-2 or more likely 4-3) on a goal with about five minutes to play from Nick Brenneman, a native of Fargo, N.D.
But Matt Rowe was the hero in an opener as he backstopped the squad with more than 50 saves in handing a team one of the few defeats it would suffer that season on its way to a league title.
The following day, with time to spare before another thriller in Isanti, the Ducks headed to the annual NAHL Showcase event in Blaine to kill a few hours and found the team and in particular, Rowe, was the take of the rink.
That opening game win propelled the Ducks into the league, and they stayed near the top of the standings for the first few months, ultimately sliding back to a near .500 showing. Not bad at all for a first-year team.