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.