Members of the Sauk Prairie Eagles and Badger Lightning varsity hockey teams offered a bit of payback to the organization that helped turn them into solid high school players, taking and wearing coach hats for the Sauk Prairie Youth Hockey Association Thursday morning.
Taking advantage of some professional teacher days at their respective schools, the varsity players rank three one-hour sessions for members of the youth hockey organization at Sauk Prairie Area Recreation Center (SPARC).
The first hour for was for squirt and 12U-aged players with peewees/14u taking the ice for the second and third hours.
Among the seniors who took the reins on the early morning sessions was Nick Mast and Hakan Peterson, incoming seniors for the Sauk Prairie Eagles, a team that has the bar set high this season after back-to-back trips to Sectional semis in previous campaigns. Also in attendance was Signe Begalski, a senior with the Badger Lightning also looking for big things with the entire 2020-21 team elibigible to return and some promising freshmen skaters as well.
The Camp took place on the eve of the opening weekend for some of the SPYHA teams and just a few weeks from opening practices for the varsity teams as well.
The Dells Ducks renewed acquaintances with the Rum River Mallards for the first time in over a month at the Fogerty Ice House Thursday evening, but dropped a tough 8-1 decision against a squad that clearly still has its number.
The Ducks enjoyed one of its best starts of the season. Frequently finding itself chasing within the game’s opening minutes, the Mallards tough through most of the opening period until Cooper Brodzinski found a way past former Mallards’ goaltender Drew Mosely in the second half of the opening period.
While the game was still within reach after the first 17-minute period, the Mallards blew it open with five unanswered middle period markers and added another in the third before Ducks’ leading scorer, Caden Glamkowski finally managed to shatter the shutout bid of Gage Guay in the Mallards’ goal late in the final period.
The goal was the 10th of the young season for Glamkowski and Jacob Cartland collected the lone assist.
The win was just the third of the season for the Mallards and snapped a nine-game losing streak. The Mallards, now sit at 3-8-1 on the season with all three wins coming against the Ducks.
The Ducks enter the final game of the Midwest-West Showcase Saturday with a 5:40 p.m. contest against the Minnesota Blue Ox who have already racked up a pair of wins at the weekend event.
The trend of falling behind early proved costly for the Ducks once again in its first of two games on Friday (Oct. 29) at the USPHL Premier Midwest-West Division Showcase event at Fogerty Ice House in Blaine, MN.
The Ducks found itself trailing the Steele County Blades 1-0 in the game’s sixth minute and 2-0 a short while later, utlimately falling by a 5-1 score.
Jack Kopfstein, the team’s ‘05 defenseman from Vista, CA hammered a shot home from the blue line for his third goal of the season the second of the weekend for the Ducks, but that was as close as this one would get as the Blades piled on another three before the final buzzer.
Assists on Kopfstein’s goal went to Caden Glamkowski and Jacob Cartland.
The first two Blades goals were both scored by veteran forward, Seva Bannikov, an ‘01 forward from Minsk, Belarus.
Other scoring details for the Blades were unavailable at the time this was written.
The Blades and Ducks met on the previous weekend, the Blades capturing an 8-2 victory against a tired, under the weather and understaffed Ducks team 8-2 at the tail end of a three games in three days weekend.
The Ducks were scheduled to hit the ice at Fogerty again later Friday against the Rum River Mallards before wrapping up Saturday afternoon against the Minnesota Blue Ox Saturday afternoon.
The Dells Ducks opened play at its first of three Showcases on the season showing improvement again, but also coming up short for the 11th time in 12 games so far, this time a 6-3 loss to the MInnesota Mullets Thursday afternoon.
Ducks spent most of the game chasing but trimmed a 3-0 first period deficit to 3-2 late in the middle period. Just wehen it seemed the Ducks would carry some momentum into the final frame though, the Mullies responded with its fourth goal 17 seconds later.
Another goal early in the third restored the three-goal cushion, but the Ducks struck back once more to make it interesting before the Mullets hammered a final nail home near the final buzzer.
Defenseman Jack Kopfstein and forward Jayden Tkacuzuk fired the second period goals for Ducks and Caden Glamkowski, who set up Tkaczuk’s tally got the favor returned in the third for his team leading ninth of the season.
Bryce Jacobsen also collected an assist for the Ducks who were beginning a stretch of four games in three days at the Midwest-West Showcase at Fogerty IceHouse in Blaine, MN.
Outshot by wide margins through most of the season, this one saw a more respectable 32-25 gap for the Mullets.
The game was the third against the Mullets in a week and the Twin Cities squad has captured the win in all three.
In the late summer of 2013, a 16-year-old hopeful from Rochester, NY was looking to catch on with the Dells Ducks, a team coming off a solid sophomore season that didn’t end until overtime in the third and deciding game of the MNJHL Division Championship series.
With many returners the bar was set high for the team.
Chris Vella made the roster and waited patiently to get his shot and made the most of it when it finally happened.
Eight years later, Vella, who will turn 24 in November, turned in four amazing seasons with the Ducks under, forged a longstanding friendship with players and a coach he was so close to he considers them family now. He went from rookie sponge to rugged leader, serving two seasons as team Captain before moving on to four more seasons at Morris State University in New York.
A couple weeks ago he made his pro debut with the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs of the SPHL. After his second game, this past weekend, Vella, one of the most popular Ducks players, took some time to respond to an emailed interview, looking back on his time in the Dells and beyond.
Vella’s responses are written in full below. Thanks for the memories Vella.
Saukhockey.info — Your career with the Ducks is inspirational and I use it as an example of a player that came in and showed patience and hard work could pay off at the junior level. You went from a healthy scratch in your first few months to a two-time captain and one of the team’s all time leaders on and off the stats sheet. Can you share some of your best memories of your four seasons with the Ducks?
Chris Vella — I absolutely loved playing for the Ducks, it was a family environment everyday and I have met some of my best friends that I still keep in touch with today. I have even been to two of my teammates weddings! Winning two championships with the ducks is something I will never forget and couldn’t have been possible without having a tight knit group.
SH — You joined a number of former Ducks teammates at Morrisville State College where you played four more seasons. What was the biggest difference between NCAA Division 3 and Tier 3 junior hockey? Was it made easier having friends in place when you arrived there?
CV — The biggest difference between Tier 3 junior hockey and NCAA D3 hockey is the physicality and speed of the game. Coach Bill Zaniboni did a great job preparing his players to make the jump to the next level and succeed wherever that may be, not only on the ice but off the ice as well. One thing Coach Bill said that stuck with me throughout my career was “take pride in everything you do”. That helped me on the ice and in the classroom. It definitely was much easier going into a program where I knew a handful of former teammates. A lot of players will move on to organizations not knowing a single person, and I think having that relationship right from day one helped me make a quick adjustment into college.
SH — What did you major in at Morrisville? Was it difficult after being out of school for a couple years to become a student athlete? What are some of your best memories from Morrisville? Did you fill the same role as both a penalty killing expert and offensive threat while in New York?
CV — I was an Exercise Science major at Morrisville. In my first semester I struggled after being out of school for a few years, I really had to relearn time management skills to balance school and hockey. One of my favorite memories at Morrisville was sweeping Fredonia the first weekend of my junior year. 2019-2020 was a better year for the program, unfortunately we just missed the playoffs, but we started to find success. I am looking forward to seeing that carry over in the program’s future. I did play a lot on the penalty kill for Morrisville, I didn’t produce a ton offensively, but my numbers did increase during my junior season and was excited to see success in my final year.
SH — It must have been a little disappointing at least wrapping up your college hockey career with small or no crowds and likely shortened seasons. Was it a stressful situation for you and your teammates or did you try to focus on studies to overcome it?
CV – Luckily, we were able to finish the 2019-2020 season with no cancellations or restrictions due to Covid. My senior season was cancelled 2 months into the school year, and it was a very difficult time for all the players as well as the coaching staff. We were only able to skate and use the gym in small groups, most classes were online, and it was very difficult for the team to get together socially.
SH — When did you start to think about taking a run at a pro career? What made you decide on Virginia? Did you approach them or did someone from there talk to you?
CV — After the season was cancelled, I really had no clue what I was going to do. I went home to Rochester for the second semester and finished classes online as well as complete a Physical Therapy internship. I spent a few months just focusing on school, hopped on the ice once a week, but it wasn’t until about January or February I had a conversation with Coach Bill that I wanted to continue my hockey career and play professionally. Coach Bill helped me a ton this past summer with getting me in contact with coaches as well as giving me advice on how to achieve my goal. I had two former teammates that played for the Rail Yard Dawgs, they said very good things about the organization and told me to reach out to the Head Coach.
SH — Did it feel any different (nerves-wise I mean) suiting up for your first pro game, opposed to your first college or junior game? What do you expect your role will be as a rookie with the Rail Yard Dawgs?
CV — I think I felt nervous for all my first games at every level I have played at, especially at the pro level. Not only was it my first pro game, but it was also my first hockey game in about a year and a half. The following week I was able to adapt to the pressure and tell myself not to be nervous and just to play hockey and I felt much better my second game. My role on the team here in Roanoke is very similar to the role I’ve played for past teams. I am a hardworking and simple player. I expect to hit, block shots, and play a ton of minutes on the penalty kill.
Vella is two games into the 56-game Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL) season with the Rail Yard Dawgs. Anyone who has purchased the HockeyTV app to watch junior hockey also should have access to SPHL games this season.
With a promising trio of games behind them this past weekend, a positive group of Dells Ducks entered a short week of practice.
The first quarter of the season has wrapped up and with a 1-10-0-0 record nobody is popping champagne corks, but it’s not hard to find positives as the team simply looks better every time it hits the ice.
This was supposed to be an easier season without the hassles and trials of a season plagued by pandemic issues from start to finish. But this team has faced adversity on and off the ice. What is left at this point is a understaffed, but focused and determined squad ready to face its challenges and confident it can improve.
Adding the veteran presence of Jason Heard, a fearless and gritty ‘01 who leaves nothing on the ice and expects the same of everyone else on his team, will bring out the best on a team that includes some talented individuals.
The Ducks face a tough challenge ahead as Heard will be unable to join them in the next challenge, four games in three days weekend at the Midwest-West Division Showcase, beginning early Thursday.
In a span of just over 50 hours, the Ducks will hit the ice four times at the Fogerty Ice House in Blaine, MN. The first three games will see the Ducks facing getting rematches against the Minnesota Mullets and Rum River Mallards, the two teams closest to them in the standings and the Steele County Blades, off to an awesome start, but a team the Ducks hung tough with until the final 20 minutes on Sunday.
The last game will be a tough one, against the Minnesota Blue Ox.
The Ducks are a combined 0-7 against these four teams so far, but the team is confident with an improvement on previous efforts and solid goaltending they will contend for victories.
There will be little reprieve for the Ducks in November as the team follows up the Showcase with nine games in the first three weeks of November including a three-game homestand and a second Showcase event at Merrimack College in Massachusetts before the Thanksgiving Break.
First game of the weekend will faceoff at 12:30 p.m. Thursday against the Mullets. All Showcase games will be on HockeyTV.
This week is the true opening of hockey at the local level for RWD and Sauk Prairie Flyers/Monkeys.
A few teams have had scrimmages and exhibitions, but the primary focus was on tryouts as rosters were set for five competitive RWD teams along with 13 in Sauk Prairie. Baraboo/Portage TBirds have also put together rosters for its Squirt, Peewee and Bantam squads as well as the U14 Badger Lightning which includes players from both the Thunderbirds and RWD outfits.
Not all teams will be in action this weekend and for the Flyers, the five scheduled contests will all take place on the road.
Technically, the 12U Monkeys Girls hockey team has already begun its season with a game on the morning of Oct. 17 against McFarland.
This weekend, the Bantam ‘A’ Flyers will be at Oregon at 10:30 a.m. Saturday followed by the Bantam ‘B’ side at 12:15 p.m. The 14U Monkeys girls’ team will have an off-ice team activity later in the day.
On Sunday, the Squirt ‘B’ Flyers will be at Bob Suter Capitol Ice in Middleton to play the host Middleton ‘C’ Squirts and the Peewee ‘A’ Flyers will hit the road for a pair in Beaver Dam at 8:30 a.m. and 11:45 a.m.
RWD teams made the move from Lake Delton Ice Arena to RACA as of Monday and they will begin game action with a busy weekend slate for the four Squirt and Peewee teams.
Action begins at 10:45 a.m. as the Squirt ‘A’ Cheavers play host to the Dodge County IceWolves at 10:45 a.m. followed by the Peewee ‘B’ squad, also against an IceWolves team at 12:15 p.m. The Peewee ‘A’ squad will begin a busy weekend with a 1:45 p.m. meeting against Verona ‘A’ Wildcats and the same two teams will go at it again at 4:45 p.m. In between games, the Peewee ‘B’ Cheavers will take on the Madison Patriots in a 3:15 p.m. faceoff.
On Sunday, the Peewee ‘A’ squad will play its third game of the weekend, entertaining the McFarland Spartans at 9:15 a.m. followed by the Squirt ‘A’ Cheavers against the Middleton ‘B’ Cardinals at 10:45 a.m. and the Squirt ‘B’ Cheavers against the West Madison Polar Caps at 12:15 p.m.
Most of the remaining teams, including the Baraboo/Portage T-Birds Bantam squad will be action the following weekend.
The Wisconsin Elite Hockey League (WEHL) 14U SouthCentral Girls team wrapped up its 12-game regular season splitting a pair of games against the NorthEast/NorthCentral squad at the Lake Delton Ice Arena.
After winning a wild offensive battle 7-4 to start the two-game set Sunday morning, the SouthCentral team had trouble finding the mesh the second one, dropping a 2-1 decision.
A four-goal flurry for SouthCentral turned a 2-0 deficit into a 4-4 draw by the start of the third and three more unanswered goals in the final frame lifted them to the win.
Leading the way on offense was Anna Phillips (Black River Falls) with three goals and Julia Purinton (Madison Mavericks) notched a pair. Ella Knapp (Madison Mavericks) collected a goal and two assists, the other goal scored by Shelby King (Wisconsin TNT/Wisconsin Blue Devils AAA).
Defender Tahni Barger from the Sauk Prarie Flyers/Monkeys and Wildcat Youth Hockey and Payton O’Neill (TNT/Blue Devils)set up a pair of SouthCentral goals with other assists for Phillips, Purinton and Carolina Cutrano (Mavericks).
The second game was the opposite as SouthCentral opened the scoring early in the second period as Knapp set up Purinton’s third of the day, but this time the visitors struck back with a trying goal early in the third and a game winner with 6:20 to go.
Also in the lineup for SouthCentral in this one and for the entire season was Sarah Hash from the Sauk Prairie Flyers/Monkeys and Wisconsin Jr. Stars along with Paige Othmer (RWD/Badger Lightning/Blue Devils) on defense and forward Reese Olson from Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds/Badger Lightning/Blue Devils AAA.
The split in the final series leaves SouthCentral with a 3-6-3 record in WEHL contests and a 7-6-3 record overall.
The four teams from the 14U Division will compete in the championship tournament this weekend at Blue Line Family Ice Center in Fond du Lac.
SouthCentral will face off against SouthEast in its first game Saturday at 9:45 a.m. In its previous four meetings with SouthEast, the local side owned a 1-2-1 record, but they haven’t faced each other in over a month.
Second game at 6:30 p.m. Saturday will see the local squad taking on the Western team which it has yet to defeat, tying once and dropping the other three.
On Sunday at 11:45 a.m. SouthCentral will wrap it up against NorthEast/NorthCentral who they hold a 2-1-1 record against this season.
The ninth and final period of a busy weekend was where the understaffed and not entirely well Dells Ducks team hit a wall on Sunday afternoon.
With a pair of decent, but ultimately unsuccessful efforts in the Twin Cities against the Minnesota Mullets already under its belt, the Ducks stopped at the Four Seasons Center in Owatonna on the way home Sunday afternoon to take on the host Steele County Blades.
The Ducks entered the weekend with a depleted roster with several team members either battling or just finished with a cold. Even at 2-2 early and down 4-2 with a period to go, the Ducks ultimately succumbed 8-2.
The Ducks were facing a Blades team that opened the season with five wins in its first eight games but coming off an 11-5 win on home ice against the Minnesota Blue Ox who beat them soundly for a second time already this season.
The Ducks tried to take advantage in the opening periods, staying with the Blades for the most part, but trailing 3-2 after 20 minutes. The Blades added one more in the second and the game was still up for grabs entering the final 20. But the Ducks were running on empty and got beat four more times although the shot clock showed a somewhat closer margin, 15-11 for the host Blades.
Overall, the Blades outshot the Ducks 53-28, a margin that while still wide, is staring to be narrowed at both ends. Ducks enjoyed its best weekend in terms of shots on goal so far this season.
Down 2-0 before the game’s three-minute mark, the Ducks fought back with goals from Bryce Jacobsen and Jayden Tkaczuk 18 seconds apart to even the score at the 7:16 mark. Thomas Howell and Jacob Cartland also collected points with an assist apiece.
Tanner Stendel paced the Blades’ attack firing three goals and adding three assists for his first six points of the season.
Anthony Falzone started for the Ducks, stopping 38 shots before Drew Moseley mopped up in the third with another seven stops.
It would be nice to be able to say the Ducks will get a chance to catch its breath, but instead the team is rolling through its shortest off-week of the season, heading back to Blaine, MN for a four-game weekend at the Midwest-West Showcase.
Ducks will begin play at 12:30 p.m. Thursday with a rematch against the Mullets, then gets a rematch against the Blades on Friday at 9 a.m. The Ducks will play a second game Friday at 5:40 p.m. against the Rum River Mallards, the first meeting since the opening weekend of the season with this rival. Wrapping up play on Saturday, the Ducks will face off against the Minnesota Blue Ox at 5:40 p.m.
The Ducks enter the Showcase with a 1-10-0-0 record, in eighth place in the division, three points behind the Mallards and a Hudson Havoc team that has played just four games so far.
A short-staffed and under the weather Dells Ducks team turned in two solid, if not successful efforts in the first two games of a three-game road trip.
After a 5-1 Friday night against the Minnesota Mullets, the Ducks turned in an even tougher challenge Saturday evening, the Mullets clinching a 5-2 win with five ticks on the clock into an empty Ducks’ cage at the Augsburg University Ice Arena.
The Ducks welcomed back former team member Jason Heard who collected 50 points (21g, 29a) in 81 games with the team in 2018-19 and 2019-20. Formerly a Georgia resident, Heard now calls Chicago home but has agreed to join the team on weekends to help.
Heard made his presence felt with a goal and assist Saturday, moving him into a tie with Brett Johnson for 16th place on the Ducks’ all-time scoring leader list.
Heard was just one of the stories in the two-game set, sharing the spotlight with Caden Glamkowski and Jayden Tkaczuk who both scored as well and the goaltending tandem of Drew Moseley and rookie William Carney, who made an exceptional junior debut.
Mosely went between the pipes Friday night, getting off to a bit of a shaky start with two goals against in the opening 5:30 of the contest, but then backstopping his team to 28:23 without letting anything past, going deep into the second before the Mullets finally connected on a couple more despite a lopsided 21-8 edge on the shot clock through the middle period.
Moseley ended up with 43 saves on the night.
The Ducks gained some consolation in this one as Glamkowski fired his seventh goal of the season with just over five minutes to go, denying Mullets’ goaltender Alex Falkenhagen a shutout.
Overall, the Mullets held an edge of 48-34 edge on the shot clock, probably the Ducks’ lowest shots against and for sure its most shots for by a country mile.
On Saturday night, Carney went to the blue paint for the first time and passed a huge test, beaten just once in the first and final periods and twice in a second period that saw him face a 23-shot barrage. With his work in goal, the Ducks remained in contention in this one until the final period.
The Mullets owned a 1-0 lead after a period and goals by Glamkowski and Heard kept it a one-goal deficit heading to the final frame. Tkaczuk, Heard and Jake Cartland collected assists for the Ducks.
Unfortunately, despite a marked improvement in all areas, the Ducks have little to show for the efforts, falling to 1-9-0-0 early in the season.
The Ducks were scheduled to stop in Owatonna’s Four Seasons Center to play the Steele County Blades on Sunday, then return home to begin preparation for a four-game weekend at the Midwest-West Showcase tournament at Fogerty Ice Arena in Blaine, MN beginning Thursday.