By Jim den Hollander
JIMMY D’S NOTES
The Dells Ducks saw its season come to an end in Coon Rapids recently as the overwhelming underdog bowing with back-to-back defeats against the Minnesota Blue Ox despite 120 of the Ducks best minutes of the season.
Its impossible to carry that momentum for five-plus months into Labor Day when the team will head into the 2022-23 season.
A small, but definite improvement over the previous season leaves room for optimism for a Ducks team that has been the youngest in the Midwest-Division if not the entire USPHL Premier League for both of the past two seasons, since Shaun Falzone stepped in as the owner/GM/Head Coach of the team.
But big changes that took effect within hours of the end of the 2021-22 season hold promise of a big improvement starting this fall.
While the changes are recent, they are far from sudden. Falzone has talked about a second phase for this team since the day he came to town and former Assistant Coach Anthony Rohde plays a big part in next generation.
Rohde was forced to step aside this season for personal reasons but his presence has been felt in at the Lake Delton Ice Arena frequently over the past season. Falzone officially passed the Head Coaching reins to his former player and good friend within days of the season’s end. The job has been Rohde’s to take for two seasons and seriously since around Christmas.
Mario Lachica will also return as the Assistant Coach and the chemistry is big and immediate between these to who have played and coached together. Like Falzone, Lachica’s style of coachng is similar to Rohde’s. One thing that any player suiting up for the Ducks can be guaranteed is icetime and individual attention. Both Rohde and Lachica are tireless and love calling the arena home during the season. The Ducks practiced twice a day through most of this past season but if there was empty ice available, Lachica was willng to work with anything any player wanted.
Rohde usually has skates on his feet for 8-10 hours or more a day when he is at the rink.
He delayed accepting the position until just recently, but he comes in with a solid gameplan and a list of possibly players he has already been in contact with. Don’t take that to mean the team is set though. As any good coach would, Rohde is searching high and low over the off season for prospects that will make the team better.
While home in the Chicagoland area, Rohde coached a bantam level team over the season and he has taken advantage of league play to look for talent. He was also on hand at the Monk’s Cheeseburger Classic. Rohde and Lachica both checked out the WIAA Seniors Tournament this past weekend and their calendars are filling up for what promises to be a busy summer, spent mostly sipping coffee and taking notes in ice rinks across North America.
Falzone will be no less busy but steps a bit into the background as team owner, looking after paperwork, sponsor hunting and promoting the team.
Ducks fans have remained mostly loyal through the past five tough seasons for the Ducks which has seen mostly 16-17 year old players.
During that tenure, the Ducks have developed many players for upper echelon Tier 3 and some Tier 2 teams and many have gone on to play at Division 3 or ACHA Club hockey teams at th college level. That will continue but watch for the Ducks to begin its move north n league standings as well.
Fans will enjoy the rise and local youth players will also be thrilled to have Rohde and Lachica ready to help them improve as well.