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.
The Reedsburg/Wisconsin Dells (RWD) Youth hockey organization held some recent sign up sessions, including a final in person one at the Lake Delton Ice Arena last week. About 100 are signed up so far and it is expected others will sign up either online or by phone over the next few weeks.
The Badger Lightning varsity hockey team, made up of high school players from across Sauk County as well as surrounding communities, unofficially opened its new season with a captain’s practice held at the Lake Delton Ice Arena on Sunday night.
The team will continue the captain’s practices for the next few months in Lake Delton until pre-season begins officially in November.
The Lighting graduated a half dozen players that all filled leadership roles on the ice and in the locker room last season. In a rare twist, Head Coach Rick Capener finds himself with a younger than usual varsity squad with no returning seniors and only a couple juniors.
The future though, looks bright for the squad, that not only will see its current players together for two full seasons, but also a large and talented group of incoming freshmen next season.
Capener and incoming junior Carson Blosenski took a few minutes to chat with Saukhockey.info about the excitement of getting back on the ice and the future of the Badger Lightning program.
Since April, Co-Owner and Head Coach of the Dells Ducks has been preparing and planning to lead team he fell in love with a decade ago back into battle.
The long off season was made longer by the social distancing and health issues that became ‘the norm’ in the hockey world, but now, some six months later, Falzone and his charges roll into their first game week of the season.
Since a few days after Labor Day, the players have been in town, preparing both off and on the ice and this past weekend saw the team getting a little bit of ‘real game’ action with a pre-season against an experienced and older Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings squad and a lively instrasquad match on Saturday.
Falzone is looking forward to the opening weekend, Friday, and Saturday against the Chicago Cougars from the USPHL Midwest-East Division, but he knows things are still just getting started.
“Well, we have a lot of work ahead of us,” said Falzone in a video interview. “But it was good. Playing against the Riverkings gave the guys a chance to see what it’s going to be like.
“We have 16 rookies here so, the boys came along better than I thought they would, faster than I thought they would.”
The Ducks head into its first game week Monday and while please with the improvements made quickly, Falzone also admitted, “We have to work on everything.”
The Cougars, perennial division champions from the Midwest East and, like the Riverkings, and older, mature squad this season, promises a couple of tough opening tests.
Hopefully adding momentum and incentive for the local boys will be some big pieces of the team’s short history so far as a pair of Dells Ducks alumni teams will take the ice before the games Friday and Saturday.
Five former team captains and some of the best players ever to don the angry Duck will be in town this weekend at the Lake Delton Ice Arena in a game that will included coaches from both the Ducks (Anthony Rohde) and the Cougars (Johnny Schwarz).
Admission prices are the same for adults ($6) and Students ($3). Seniors and Veterans will be pleased to see a rare price drop as the price for both has been reduced to $3 for the upcoming season.
The Janesville Jets U-18 squad dropped a pair of decisions at the NAPHL Fall Showcase at Schwan Super Rinks and the Fogerty Center in Blaine, Minnesota Saturday.
After the opening game win against Minnesota Hockey Academy Mudbugs on Friday, the Jets fell to the Northstar Knights from Northstar Christian Academy in Alexandria, Minnesota 6-0 early Saturday morning, then traveled to Fogerty Arena Saturday night to face the Fairbanks Ice Dogs U-18 team, another team sponsored by a NAHL team, falling 3-1.
In the early game, the Jets surrendered two goals in each period and were only outshot 25-10. Against the Ice Dogs, Jets scored first, carrying a 1-0 lead out of the first period. The Ice Dogs grabbed control with a pair of middle period goals and clinched the win with a little under four minutes to go.
Trevor Slaght from Wisconsin Dells will join the U-18 Jets in its final game at the Showcase event Sunday at 3:15 p.m. against the Minnesota Magicians U-18 squad.
I didn’t realize it until Colin Cross mentioned he had played with each member of my all-time Ducks Fourth line that they were all from pretty much the same ‘era’ of Ducks teams.
The next line has a little more of a cross section of players which is good because what I really wanted to do is represent all nine of the previous seasons.
Joey Bower – The Crystal Lake, Illinois native was a proud member of the Ducks, talked to by Coach Falzone when he coached the original Ducks’ team, Bower ultimately signed with Bill Zaniboni a season later. Bower is tied with Jake Stima for eighth all time in games played with 91 and in that stretch, he fired a 12th best 29 goals and 10th best 45 assists for a 13th best total of 74 points.
Bower was a key player in so many big games and he loved playing for the team so much he was a frequent visitor following his two seasons in the Dells just to see how things were going. Just an amazing heart and soul player that gave everything he had to this team.
After he finished with the Ducks, Bower went on to attend and play hockey at Illinois State University where he played another three seasons and collected another 87 points.
Stone Stelzl – Stone was an interesting player and a bright spot in couple of tough seasons for the Ducks.
The 2017-18 Ducks was a completely new squad with Head Coach Jeff Worlton taking over at the helm and bringing in an enthusiastic but young squad. It was the first time in the Ducks’ history the team endured a ‘rebuilding phase,’ something most teams go through frequently.
But Stelzl, a role player when he played high school hockey in Blaine, Minnesota made his presence felt on the Ducks and despite playing his first season of junior, he was a team leader and wore the captain’s ‘C’ in both of his seasons with the Black and Silver
Before moving on to play Tier 2 hockey in Northwestern Ontario this past season, Stelzl checked in with 45 goals (sixth best total on the team); 38 assists (15th best) for 83 points (9th best). Certainly, unintimidated as a younger player, Stelzl also wracked up 179 minutes in penalties, fifth highest total in team history as well.
Stelzl has moved on to College this season at Castleton University in Vermont, playing in the NEHC.
Sherman Mowery – As I have been putting these lists together and looking for pictures, it is amazing how often I see a team goal celebration picture with Mowery right at the center of it.
Mowery scored a lot of goals – 60 to be exact, second highest total in team history. He contributed another 68 assists, third best total in team history for a total of 128 points, also second best in 129 games, fourth best in team history.
He might have been the team leader in big goals though. I recall an overtime game winner, I believe against Wooster to clinch a series win, but there were several others. Again, the pictures tell the tale.
Lucas Smith – Lucas a good young defenseman on a really strong team in his first season with the Ducks and as a result, the young Calgary native found himself on the sidelines in some big games.
But he clearly took good notes on the steep learning curve and when he returned for the 2015-16 season, he was given a letter to wear on his chest, a role he took seriously. Smith with a smooth skating defenseman who didn’t show up on the game sheet as often as some might have expected, but he made his presence felt in his own end and logged a lot of ice time on penalty kill and with the game on the line.
Smith played 71 games in a Ducks’ uniform and went on to play Division 2 NCAA at Post University, wearing the ‘C’ in his final two seasons. His selection here is timely as Smith just announced in the past day or so he will be making his professional debut with EHC Basel of the Swiss SRL.
Johan Kling– One of the few one-season team members on the list, Kling made his presence felt in a big way during the 2015-16 Ducks’ season. He contributed. Like Smith, he was more about moving the puck and dominating in his own end, but Kling did notch seven goals and set up another 15 in that season.
Its surprising Kling didn’t pick up more points as he was a key player on the powerplay, generally acting as a quarterback on the blue line and he had an accurate shot from a distance.
One of the best memories of Kling is as the flashiest suit wearer on the team bus, although there was certainly some competition over the years.
Kling played most of his junior years at home in Sweden but played a season of junior in Canada prior to coming to the Dells and he followed that up with four seasons at Bethel College in the MIAC Conference. He recently signed on with Raahe-Kiekko of the Finnish Suomi-sarja. Yet another Ducks player moving on to play professional hockey.
Wisconsin Dells native and RWD junior forward, Trevor Slaght and the U-18 Janesville Jets opened play at the North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL) Fall Showcase in Blaine, Minnesota Friday (September 18) at the Schwan Super Rinks in Blaine, Minn.
In its first game, the Jets grabbed a 6-3 win against the Minnesota Hockey Academy Mudbugs. Slaght contributed a clinching goal with 5:40 to play, giving the Jets a 5-3 lead at the time.
The team was scheduled to play two more games Saturday and wrap up play on Sunday.
The Dells Ducks were on a mission in the 2014-15 season to finally lay claim to the Minnesota Junior Hockey League’s Bush Cup.
But the team endured more than a detour on the road to the championship in the spring of 2015. In fact, the road swerved in Dead Man’s Curve fashion when the teams biggest rival, the Rochester Ice Hawks opened the Best of Three Championship series with a 5-2 win in Lake Delton.
The Ducks spent most of the season chasing the Ice Hawks who racked up a long season opening winning streak to grab control. The Ducks however were equally as dominant down the stretch and the teams crossed the finish line together with matching 35-6-1 regular season records.
The Ducks were given the nod as regular season champions and both teams were dominant in their opening playoff rounds, the Ducks breezing past Ironwood Yoopers and the For
est Lake Lakers while the Ice Hawks downed the Minnesota Owls and Hudson Crusaders in division play. Final Four crossover matches saw the Ducks getting by Wooster Oilers and the Ice Hawks advanced past the Illiana Blackbirds
The Icehawks defeated the Ducks a few times during the season, but all the late season meetings went the Ducks way, so the home fans and Ducks players were a little stunned by the opening game loss. But just like that, the team was looking at the prospect of missing out on Nationals unless they could pull out a win in front of a huge, always loud and mean Ice Hawks’ home crowd.
About 30 hard core Ducks fans made the trip to Rochester for Game 2 on the Saturday night, sitting right behind the Ducks’ bench and witnessing the team’s get up off the mat 5-1 in game two of the Best of Three Bush Cup Championship series, meaning for the third year in a row, the Ducks were heading into a winner-take-all game for the Championship trophy.
Pre-Season Games originally scheduled for Saturday (September 19) for the Dells Ducks against the Rochester Vipers have been cancelled due to unpreventable circumstances.
The Ducks now prepare for their home opening contests next Friday and Saturday (September 25-26) against the Chicago Cougars.
The home opening weekend will have extra festivities with two teams of former Ducks players in town for a pair of alumni matches. The alumni games will begin at 5 p.m. both Friday and Saturday followed by Dells Ducks- Chicago Cougars warm ups at 6:30 and puck drop on the game at 7.
Among those in attendance on the weekend will be Colin Cross, a former Ducks’ player who now has a band in Nashville, Tennessee. Cross and his bandmates will be in town and following the Ducks game Friday night, they will perform at Bobbers Island Grill.
Saturday will be similar with the 5 p.m. Alumni contest followed by the Ducks vs. Chicago Cougars at 7 p.m.
This will be the first two of seven straight home games for the Ducks to open the 2020-21 regular season.
Whenever someone does ratings or rankings they almost always say “This was the hardest thing I have ever done.” Until now, I always thought it was a cop out.
Some really good players and great friends didn’t make this list. In fact, I sort of planned to do a qualifier with a bunch of Honorable Mentions, but then I thought. Well, what about the guys who just miss that list.
While I thought about who should be on here for a long time (since the end of this past season I have thought about doing this), when the time came to sit down and construct the list, the names came together quickly and with few alterations.
Since putting it together, I have been going through pictures and doing some of my Top 10 games and thought, “Dang, I should have had that guy.” I didn’t allow myself a chance to go back and change it though. I considered my first decision as final.
For sure not everyone will agree. There are enough of you out there that have been around the team as long as I have. I encourage you to make your own team as well…and I will put it in this space for you.
My fourth line is my defensive line – At least a few of these guys would be on the team whether there was a ‘checking line or not. But the Ducks’ penalty kill was so amazing in those early seasons, I had to give some of the guys their due. This I think is a combination of guys that could shut down the opposition, count an outrageous amount of shorthanded goals and in some cases, just got edged out for my top three lines.
Ian Harris – Harris played two seasons with the Ducks and
the 76 points he put up in 86 games played ranks him in a tie for 11th in all-time team scoring. Those stats aren’t the ones that stand out for Harris though.
This guy was a completely different player when the Ducks were shorthanded. I think he got genuinely excited with the ref’s arm went up with a minor call against the Ducks. I used to have all the statistics on the team, and I would update them after every game. However, a computer glitch a few years back made all that moot.
But I know this, Harris not only leads all Ducks in shorthanded goals, his total will never be broached. It’s ridiculous, like three or four times more than anybody. At the time, I followed the Green Bay Packers a lot more than I do now, and I recall they had some amazing cornerbacks who picked off a lot of passes. Harris was the hockey equivalent of that. Passes through the neutral zone somehow ended up on his stick and the play turned, frequently resulting in a Ducks’ celebration.
Harris went on to play a season of Tier 3 out east and wrapped up his junior career in Kingston, Ontario, playing Tier 2 hockey. He followed that up with a brief run of pro hockey with ECHL, SPHL and FHL teams.
I will always remember him as part of the best penalty killing combination our team will likely ever see.
Colin Cross – Harris racked up the points on the penalty kill and I believe ‘Crosser’ was an unsung hero.
The thing with Cross was, it didn’t really matter what the situation was –penalty kill, regular strength, power play, overtime…. He played every shift like there was 30 seconds left in the game and we were down a goal.
The tenacious forechecking of Cross has made me question the way teams kill penalties at every level (including the NHL) since I was able to watch him play.
You know when you’re watching your team kill a penalty and they manage to clear the puck. The opposition defenseman skates back and positions himself behind the goal and your forechecking forward skates down and stops at the top of the crease? You must see it a dozen times every game.
Crosser never stopped at the top of the crease. He raced the length of the ice and chased that d-man right behind the net. If he stopped, Cross would plant him on the wall and hold him for a faceoff in the opposition end. If the defensemen wised up to what Cross was doing, he would grab the puck and look for someone to pass it to –quickly. I believe it was that pressure that contributed to hurried passes ultimately picked off by Harris.
That’s my theory anyway.
Chris Vella – All he did in parts of four seasons with the Ducks was play in 128 games, fifth most of any Ducks player and collect 56 goals (third highest total), 47 assists (eighth highest total) for 103 points (sixth highest total).
What I love about Vella is the way he went about making the team. As a 16-year old, Vella filled a lot of water bottles and carried a lot of gear to the bus but to my knowledge he never complained. In his first season. I don’t believe he made a game roster before Christmas Break. Certainly, not often. He calmly waited and took advantage of his opportunities.
Who knows if it was an injury or discipline being doled out that saw Vella’s name penciled in for the first time? He showed he belonged, sat a little more, then showed he belonged again. He ultimately made it impossible for Coach Zaniboni to leave him out of the lineup. By the time we arrived at Nationals that season, Vella was an every game player.
I think of that whenever I hear a player (or parent) say the coach didn’t like them or was against them.
The rest is history, Vella went on to become a great contributor in every situation, including defense and he wore the ‘C’ on his chest for the final two seasons. He had a brief sabbatical at the start of one season, playing Tier 2 hockey in Lindsay, Ontario, but decided he loved the Ducks too much.
Mike Sullivan – ‘Sully’ never lacked in his own end. He played 84 games over two seasons with the Ducks and while his bread and butter was stopping the other team from scoring, he was a more complete defender by the time he left the Ducks.
Sullivan became more comfortable lugging the puck and even setting up on powerplays and as a result, he became a guy Coach Zaniboni relied heavily on. Time on ice is not a stat kept at this level, but trust me, this guy was up there in minutes played – perhaps a leader in his second season.
In his first season, Sullivan found his way to three goals and eight assists, then added 25 points with seven goals in his second campaign.
Sullivan had no trouble ratcheting up the intensity on the ice, but he was also well known for his ability to crack up the others off the ice and on the bus. A fun guy that came to play – that’s pretty valuable.
Sean Teske – It’s always great to have a local guy
on the team. Reedsburg’s Sean Teske came aboard midway through the 2014-15 season and played two more after that. An undersized defenseman at 5’6, Teske didn’t shy from the physical game, but his style was more about tying up forwards and steering them away than laying thunderous hits.
He was comfortable with the puck, leading the play out his own end as often as he passed it out. Teske was not just a defensive specialist either. He played as a forward in his freshman and sophomore years on the RWD varsity hockey team and was a regular offensive contributor.
Effective on the powerplay as well, the most noticeable thing about Teske was his lack of slapshot. I don’t believe in his three seasons with the Ducks, he ever raised his stick off the ice. He was more about waiting for the right opportunity and firing a snapshot either looking for a deflection or a well-aimed shot straight to the mesh. Defensemen are usually known for their heavy shots but Teske knew the wrister was more accurate and reliable.