By Jim den Hollander
The Dells Ducks returned from the Christmas Break and returned to the USPHL Premier Midwest-West regular season with a new sandpaper look.
Unfortunately, with several new players in the lineup, communication was off a bit, but the improvement was evident in a pair of games against the Minnesota Mullets, a team that has had the Ducks’ number in recent seasons.
The Mullets dominated the second half of what started out as a close game Friday, taking a 9-2 win in the opener at the Lake Delton Ice Arena. In the second game it was the Ducks rallying late but ultimately falling short by a 5-3 score.
The Mullets collected more than 50 shots on goal on both nights, but the Ducks trimmed the total by 15 – from 69 to 54 in the second game while putting 27 of their own at Mullets’ goal, a solid total against a team in the Midwest-West.
Mullets 9 @ Ducks 2
The visitors dominated the opening minutes Friday, jumping into a 10-0 lead on the shot clock, but a disciplined Ducks team took advantage of three powerplay opportunities to cut the margin to 21-15 by the end of the opening 20.
Mullets scored first, but defenseman Drake Johnson (‘01/Grand Rapids, MI) sank his first as a Duck 10-seconds from the first period buzzer and teams were even at 1-1 heading to the second.
Unfortunately, the Mullets snatched the momentum away in the middle frame with four unanswered goals and two more in the first two minutes of the third to widen the gap to 7-1. Luca Maislin (‘03/Montreal, QC), playing his first game with the Ducks, scored the game’s second goal with set ups for Johnson and team captain Bryce Jacobsen (‘02/DeForest, WI).
Between them, goaltenders Anthony Falzone (‘03/St. Charles, IL) and Drew Moseley (‘02/St. Louis, MO) kicked out 60 shots. Falzone turned in a heroic effort in the first period stopping all but one of 21.
Mullets 5 @ Ducks 3
The Saturday game started with a similar barrage from the Mullets but once again the Ducks played a more even second half of the opening period, the Mullets carrying a 1-0 lead into the second after a 20-10 edge on the shot counter.
The second period saw the Mullets pull away again with four goals, Maislin pulling one back with a well placed shot from a tough angle.
The most promising sign came in the final 20 as the Ducks battled both figuratively and literally through a physical period with another goal by Jayden Tkaczuk (‘02/Channahon, IL) and another from Caden Glamkowski (‘04/St. Charles, IL) with a little under two minutes to go, making for an interesting final few minutes. Assists came from defenders Gage Senio (‘04/Red Deer, AB) and Johnson.
Moseley turned in another 49-save effort for a Ducks team that showed improvement not just from one game to the next, but one period to the next.
Boasting a full lineup for the first time, the Ducks enter its longest downtime of the season, allowing plenty of practices for players to get used to each other. Also, a few more new faces will be added in the days ahead making players compete not just for ice time, but starting spots in the lineup.
The team will be out of action until a busy weekend Jan. 28-30, starting with a pair in Coon Rapids, MN against the Division leading Minnesota Blue Ox followed by the penultimate home game of the campaign, Jan. 30 against the Steele County Blades.
DUCK PRINTS – The Ducks have 11 games remaining in the regular season, all against Midwest-West Division’s top five teams as they have now wrapped up against the seventh place Rum River Mallards and sixth place Mullets.
The Mullets swept a five-game series with the Ducks and have won the past nine against the Ducks, dating back to a 5-4 road win for the Ducks on Jan. 26, 2020.
Caden Glamkowski scored a goal in Saturday’s game, giving him 28 on the season, moving him into a tie for fourth best single season total with Sherman Mowery and Jake Stima. The next two ahead of him are both Ian Wood – with 34 in 2014-15 and 36 the previous season. The all-time leader is Aidan Verbeke with 37 in 2011-12, the Ducks premiere season.
Jayden Tkaczuk also picked up a couple points on the weekend, pushing his career total to 54 (22g, 32a) in two seasons so far. He sits 16th all time on a list of more than 200 players, six points behind Reedsburg native Sean Teske who collected 60 points (16g, 44a) in 94 games with the Ducks. Heading into the weekend, Tkaczuk was even with Jason Heard who played with the Ducks on the weekend as well.