Jimmy D’s alltime Ducks– 2nd line

Decisions and placements get tougher when it comes to the top two lines and these five guys were all amazing in their time with the Ducks.

Many these guys played together during the Ducks ‘Glory Seasons’ and the other would have been an awesome fit on any of those teams.

Forwards:

Yari Neitenbach – The reputation of many Colorado-born players is that they are tough as nails, go over or through opposition as opposed to around and aren’t afraid to back up their actions with gloves on the ice if needed – That is Yari Neitenbach.

Yari Neitenbach

In 132 regular season games with the Ducks (tied for second most), Neitenbach put up 51 goals (tied for fourth most) and 64 assists (also fourth) for 115 points (fifth). 

Neitenbach is the all-time team leader in penalty minutes with 253 but most of the time he was joined in the sinbin by an opposition player as well.

The rugged winger was loved by teammates and Ducks’ fans and despised by almost everyone else in the league, including some coaches. That is what made him fit in perfectly on Coach Zaniboni’s team, which collectively had the same personality.

Ian Wood – An amazing leader and captain, Wood was the perfect addition during the summer of 2013.

The Ducks were looking to take another step after an awesome playoff run that Spring got them to within an overtime goal of the Bush Cup Championship.

Ian Wood

Zaniboni found this tough as nails forward out of Pittsburgh who turned in two amazing seasons with amazing stats and leadership. After another overtime disappointment in 2014, it was Captain Wood hoisting the Bush Cup in 2016. 

Wood’s 70 goals is the highest career total for a Ducks’ player and he added 55 assists (seventh) most for 125 points (third most). Wood collected 1.389 points per game and most of those points came from the top of the blue paint where Wood took a beating while making goaltenders’ lives miserable – just ask Matiss Kivlenieks.

After an amazing two-season run in the Dells, Wood moved on to Morrisville State College with several of his Ducks’ teammates. There he collected another 40 points and wore the ‘C’ again in both his junior and senior seasons. 

Wood realized a dream when he played a season of pro hockey in Sweden last season, notching another 24 points with Lindafallets SK.

As of a few months ago, Wood announced his retirement from the competitive game and he has moved on to begin his business career in Chicago where he will no doubt terrorize the goaltenders at the recreational level.

Layne Martin – Martin is a testament of a guy doing everything he can to play the game he loves. 

After a 21-game stint with the team in 2012-13 followed by a big role on the team’s amazing playoff run, Martin appeared destined to wrap up his junior career in back in Tier 2 hockey. Martin attended the Soo Eagles camp that fall and was invited to join the team. Instead, he politely thanked the coach but also let him know he intended to return to the Dells and the Ducks.

Layne Martin

How big a decision was that? Consider this – Martin surrendered a chance to play in a league with no cost to him and instead chose to pay-to-play with the Ducks. In order to make that possible, Martin took a full time (not part time) job at a fast-food establishment in Wisconsin Dells where he became as integral and important as he was to the Ducks. The only concession granted to Martin was a pass on the mandatory gym sessions in the early a.m. To my knowledge, Martin never missed a practice or a work shift. 

On the ice, Martin became the teams first and so far, only league scoring champion with a 69-point season, winning the battle to the wire over teammate Jacob Stima.

The 48 assists he picked up that season is the highest single season total ever and his 59 total assists is sixth best. He also ranks seventh in all time scoring with 92 points.

Martin went on to four more seasons at the NCAA D3 level at Morrisville State College

Defense:

Bradley Hefner – ‘Little Hef’ is the Ducks ironman, his 141 games played over three seasons in a Ducks uniform is the highest career total for Ducks players.

At first glance, he might have seemed undersized for the position, but Hefner never backed down from any opponent and played a surprisingly physical game usually reserved for the bigger defenders.

Bradley Hefner

Over the course of his time in the Dells, Bradley transitioned from being at his best in his own end, to being much more comfortable in the transition game and a key cog as a quarterback for the powerplay. 

Hef never missed a game in his first USPHL season and was halfway through the second when a suspension kept him out of the lineup for the first time, ending a long streak of games played.

His scoring numbers – 20 goals and 64 assists are among the best for defensemen and the assist mark is fifth best all time on the team, while his 84 points in eighth. He also collected 184 minutes in penalties which ranks fifth highest ever.

Known for his colorful suits, Little Hef was a student of the game, often asked by Coach Zaniboni for his thoughts on certain players from other teams, Hefner knew pretty much everything about everyone.

Another who attended Morrisville State, Hefner played four full seasons there and, to the surprise of nobody, has returned to the school last season as the Assistant Coach of the Women’s Hockey team.

Billy Nichol– I am quite sure this will be the biggest surprise inclusion on my list. Nichol was a throwback defenseman from Illinois that added some legit grit and leadership on a team that desperately needed it.

Billy Nichol

The 2017-18 Ducks were the first ever rebuilding team in the history of the program. The team was extremely young, at least a few of the players still in high school underclassmen years.

Zander Zafiro was the team’s only returner, in goal and the team struggled early on just to get into the neutral zone.

Nichol had played for Coach Jeff Worlton in the NAHL the previous season and when things weren’t going his way in Springfield the following season, he joined his former coach in the Dells. 

A physical player who played with a chip on his shoulder, Nichol was relied on heavily and helped the team as much as he could. He wore a ‘C’ on his jersey along with Stone Stelzl through the second half of the season.

Jimmy D’s Top 10 Games — #3

Ducks bring it on home!

Statistically, the Ducks claiming the USP3HL National Championship in the spring of 2016 is the biggest win in team history.

After all, only champions end their season with a win — technically, the Ducks also ended the 2014 season with a win over Florida Jr. Blades at the USA Hockey Nationals, but that was in round robin play – and the team collected the highest honor it could achieve in 2016.

The reason it has been pushed down a bit on my list is because the National Championship wins might have been a bit of an anti-climax as in that season, the tougher games came earlier.

Between the 2014-15 and 2015-16, the Ducks and several other Minnesota Junior Hockey League teams moved to the United States Premier Hockey League. It was decided the large group of newcomers would be placed in the USP3HL (a pre-cursor of what is now known as the USPHL Elite League) for its first season.

The Ducks were included in the nine-team Western Conference with teams from the also merged Midwest Junior Hockey League season forming the Eastern Conference.

The playoff road might not have been the toughest the Ducks ever faced, but it was certainly the longest.

The Ducks finished third in its division despite a nice 38-8-2 regular season record. As a result, the Ducks faced the Illiana Blackbirds in the opening round of the post season and (see Top 10 Game 10) came close to being eliminated right there, needing an overtime winning in game three.

That pushed the Ducks into a road series in Chicago against the expansion Cougars who finished one point ahead of the Ducks in the regular season. This one also went the three-game limit as teams traded 2-1 overtime wins before the Ducks wrapped it up with a 3-2 victory. Chicago defeated the Ducks in the second game of the series and the Ducks never lost again that season.

The Ducks and top seeded Forest Lake Lakers (who finished two points ahead of the Ducks in the regular season) advanced to the League Championship set along with the Traverse City Hounds and Tri-City Icehawks from the Eastern Conference.

Placed in one of two Round Robin Divisions, the Ducks defeated the Hampton Roads Whalers (3-0); and Jersey Shore Whalers (6-1) to advance into the tournament’s Final Four.

A 5-2 win against the Florida Eels advanced the Ducks into the National Championship game where they once again played Hampton Roads – Wrapping up the Crown with another in a record-breaking season of shutouts for Jared Young, 5-0.

That game – the National Championship clinching shutout, is Game 3 on Jimmy D’s Top 10 Ducks games list.

The triumphant Ducks returned home to a cheering crowd at the Poppy Waterman Ice Arena. The following season, the Ducks and all the other Midwest teams were bumped up to the Premier League where many of them still reside in one of the three Midwest region divisions.

T-Birds preparing for turnaround season

 

By Jim denHollander

Editor/Publisher

Saukhockey.info

The Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds varsity hockey team took the first strides on what coaches and players hope will be a turnaround season at Lake Delton Ice Arena last week.

Some of the 2020-21 Baraboo/Portage T-Birds hopefuls get some instructions before a drill during their Captain’s practice at Lake Delton Ice Arena on Wednesday night.

The team is running regular ‘Captain’s Practices’ at Lake Delton on Wednesday and Thursday nights with several members from a younger squad a season ago, looking to take the next step.

The team graduated six seniors last season, but among the returners this season is Campbell Koseor who led the team in scoring as a junior with 33 points (17g, 16a) in 23 games. Among the 17 goals were five on powerplay and five of his goals were game winners – an awesome stat considering the team won just 11 games.

Koseor is currently balancing a tough schedule, preparing for Baraboo’s first football game on Friday while fitting in the early hockey workouts and while the term ‘Captain’s Practice may imply a light, shinny-based workout. Koseor and his mates were engaged in a fast-paced session on Wednesday after which he took a few minutes to chat with Saukhockey.info.

The T-Birds, like RWD, the Badger Lightning and soon (at their own rink) the Sauk Prairie Eagles are all taking to the ice early to gear up for their respective varsity seasons.