By Jim den Hollander
The Ducks are facing an opponent so tough in the Minnesota Moose, they added a week of preparation.
A hockey team faces tests all through its season, but facing the Moose this weekend is on part with a Harvard entrance exam.
The Moose have been among the toughest opponents for the Ducks since joining the USPHL at the beginning of the Fall of 2018. Actually, they don’t come any tougher. The Moose have compiled a perfect 14-0 record against the Ducks with 14 straight regulation defeats.
Five of those losses came last year by a combined score of 49-5.
A few Ducks players remember those (or at least some of those) contests well, but coming off a win in its series against the Cougars two weeks ago and a solid chemistry that has the team communicating better every time it steps on the ice, there is some genuine confidence heading into this weekend.
The Moose have played three games so far this season and come into action this weekend sporting a 2-1 record. They were scheduled to play the Minnesota Mullets on home ice at Fogerty Ice Arena.
Among the offensive leaders for the Moose heading into the weekend were captain Chase Solberg with seven points with Hunter Barto and Ike Frankel next at four points apiece.
Those are some familiar names for the Ducks. Solberg collected 13 points against the Ducks last season including three goals and three assists in the first meeting of the season at the Midwest-West Showcase.
Frankel also feasted on the Ducks with five goals and five assists, Barto adding a goal and four helpers.
The Only current members of the Ducks to score against the Moose are Jayden Tkaczuk and Carter Lewis.
However, the Ducks have put up some much better offensive numbers through the opening four games including nine points already from Caden Glamkowski (3g, 6a) while fellow rookie Jake Cartland (5g, 2a) and returner Bryce Jacobsen (2g, 5a) both have seven points through four games. That offense has been collected mostly without help from captain Jayden Tkaczuk who will be absent Friday, but returns to action Saturday hungry to get involved with his teammates on the score sheet.
In goal, Luke Buza was selected as Goaltender of the Week at the end of September, the same week Cartland collected Top Forward honors. Buza has played all three games for the Moose so far and had a 3.00 Goals Against Average along with a .902 Save Percentage heading into play this weekend.
For the Ducks, Anthony Falzone and Drew Mosely have split the work evenly. A dismal weekend for the entire team against the Rum River Mallards on the opening weekend left the goaltenders with some big statistical numbers. A week later through, both played again and both took a big chunk out of their Goals Against while raising their Save Percentages. Falzone collected his first junior win in goal and Mosely has looked good in both of his starts and is not far from joining Falzone in the win column.
The task this weekend will be to play a disciplined game and take advantage of manpower advantages while limiting powerplay opportunties for the Moose, staying hot on defense while at the same time keeping up the steady improvement in its own end, limiting chances, especially rebounds for the Moose and transitioning quickly from defense to offense.
Game time Saturday night is 7:30 p.m. with a quick turnaround for Sunday seeing teams back on the ice at 1:30 p.m.