Great memories of Ducks, Zaniboni for Vella

By Jim den Hollander  

Editor/Publisher 

Saukhockey.info 

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. 

Chris Vella

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. 

Phillips’ hat trick leads 14U WEHL squad to win

By Jim den Hollander  

Editor/Publisher 

Saukhockey.info 

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. 

A goal Celebration from earlier this season. SouthCentral had plenty to celebrate in the first game, but had troubles on offense in the getaway game against NorthEast/NorthCentral on Sunday at the Lake Delton Ice Arena.

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. 

Local youth hockey teams named

By Jim den Hollander

Editor/Publisher

Saukhockey.info.

All three of the Sauk County Youth Hockey organizations have announced players on at least a few of their teams.

The Sauk Prairie Flyers and Sauk Prairie Monkeys will have a total of 13 teams at the compertitive levels — two each at the Squirt, Peewee and Bantam levels for the Flyers as well as the 10U and 14U levels for the Monkeys. The Monkeys will boast an amazing three teams at the 12U level.

There are also 39 players registered at the 8U (Mite) level cross-ice programs and another 44 are signed up at the 6U Beginner levels

For more information on the rosters of the various Sauk Prairie teams for the upcoming seasons, visit the organization’s website at https://www.saukprairiehockey.com/ and look under the Teams tabs.

RWD has named both its Bantam and Mite Rosters and with final tryouts at the Squirt and Peewee level taking place late last week, the two teams at each level will also be named in the next day or so as well.

This week, the Squirts and Peewees have pre-season schedules practice with regular schedules next week and season openers as early as the Oct. 29-31 weekend.

For more information on the RWD teams, check out the organizations website https://www.rwdhockey.com/ and visit the team or ice schedule links.

The Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds Youth Hockey organization has printed rosters of its competitive teams at the Squirt, Peewee and Bantam levels as well as the 14U Badger Lightning squad.

For more on the Thunderbirds and Badger Lightning visit the organization’s website at https://www.thunderbirdyouthhockey.com/.

Bright spots on a rough weekend for Ducks

By Jim den Hollander  

Editor/Publisher 

Saukhockey.info 

It was another tough lesson for the Dells Ducks against another of the division’s top teams this past weekend as the team absorbed a pair of tough defeats. 

After dropping a 9-3 decision on Saturday night at the Lake Delton Ice Arena against the Minnesota Blue Ox on Saturday night, the same two teams returned Sunday for an afternoon matinee contest, the Blue Ox going home happy with a 6-1 win.  

The Blue Ox outshot the Ducks 67-22 on Sunday but that was a slight improvement in both shots for and against for the Ducks over the previous night’s numbers.  

It might be hard to hear once again, but this is a Ducks team in a developing stage. The team has more 18 and young aged players and finds itself once again with Justin Green as the lone 20-year-old. The Ducks have a majority of players 18 and under.

The losses dropped the Ducks to 1-7 on the season so far which is one-win better than last season at this point and while the overall results have been rough, there some brightly shining diamonds in the rough so far as well.  

Caden Glamkowski, an ‘04 from St. Charles, IL scored three times on the weekend and he continues to lead the team with 13 points in eight games. Jayden Tkaczuk who has made it clear he wants to go after the team’s single season scoring record, played his first full weekend since the opening series and he was in on all three goals the first night. He has seven points in four games played and gives the two teams two lines that can score. Jacobsen has racked up 11 points, two more than he collected in more than 20 games played last season. Jacob Cartland has a share of the goal scoring lead for the team with six goals and nine points. 

The weekend series brought an end a set of eight straight games on home ice to open the regular season. The Ducks will make its first road trip of the season Friday, playing at Augsburg University Ice Arena in the Twin Cities at 7:30 p.m. The Mullets are coached by Chris Walby, a long tenured coach who played as a youngster in Sauk Prairie. On Sunday the Ducks will stop off on the way home at Owatonna to meet the Steele County Blades at the Four Seasons Center.

This begins an extremely busy stretch for the Ducks as they follow up this weekend set with four games in three days at the Midwest-West Showcase Tournament at Fogerty Ice House, home of the Minnesota Moose in Blaine, MN, Oct. 28-30, then return home Nov. 5-7 for another three-game weekend. All totalled, that’s 10 games in two weeks. 

Duck Feathers – The Ducks welcomed a half dozen players on a temporary basis on the weekend. The next new player to suit up for the Ducks will be number 250 in team history. 

  • – Tkaczuk boosted his all-time points total with the Ducks to 12 goals and 26 points, moving him into a tie with Colton Maynard for 53rd spot on the Ducks list. He has a good shot at climbing inside the top 50 with another good weekend at Augsburg. He has also crossed the 120-minute mark in penalties and is on pace to become just the third player in team history to go over 200 minutes. 
  • The November 5-7 homestand will be th final homegames for the team in 2021. 

Three point game for Olson in WEHL meeting

By Jim den Hollander  

Editor/Publisher  

Saukhockey.info 

The SouthCentral 14U Wisconsin Elite Hockey League (WEHL) team saw its longest undefeated string of the season end after seven games but also saw some improvement over early matches against the Western squad in a pair of games at the United Civic Center Ice Arena in Baldwin. 

After scoring the first two and final two goals in a 4-4 draw to extend its streak in the opening match despite being outshot, the Western side rallied back from an early deficit again in the second match, this time extending it to a 3-1 final.  

The same two teams met in Verona at the end of August, Western handing the South Central squad 3-1 and 6-0 defeats.  

Reese Olson from Baraboo (Badger Lightning/Blue Devils AAA) played a big role in the first contest, shaking off some physical play to score the first two SouthCentral goals and she also set up Leah Grudzinski (Wisconsin Mavericks) to get the team within one later in the contest. 

Reese Olson slams the puck home past the Western goaltender in the first of two games at Baldwin Sunday with teammate Maizy Fonseca ready for a rebound.

Other Sauk County representation on the team includes defenders Tahni Barger (Sauk Monkeys, Wildcat Youth Hockey/Sauk Flyers); Sarah Hash (Sauk Flyers/Sauk Monkeys/Wisconsin Jr. Stars) and Paige Othmer (RWD Cheavers/Badger Lightning/Blue Devils AAA).

Anna Phillips (Black River Falls) scored the equalizer for SouthCentral in the third period to complete the comeback. 

Leah Grudzinski celebrates her goal for the SouthCentral squad with Abby Hollfelder.

Outshot again in the second contest, SouthCentral kept the game scoreless until Caroline Cutrano (Madison Mavericks) found the net to put SouthCentral in front again. A shorthanded goal pulled the Western side even and that shifted the momentum back to Western who fired two more unanswered goals to wrap up the win. 

The weekend results dropped SouthCentral to 2-5-3 in league play and 6-5-3 overall. The Regional squad will enjoy a week off this weekend, then return to the Lake Delton Ice Arena October 24 for a pair of matches against the NorthCentral/NorthEast team. 

Paige Othmer of the SouthCentral (red jersey) squad takes away a scoring opportunity for a player from the Western team during the first of their two games in Baldwin Sunday.
Reese Olson (forward by boards, Tahni Barger (15) and Sarah Hash are in position for a faceoff just outside the Western blue line during their second game in Baldwin Sunday.
This board meeting was part of the physical contests between the SouthCentral (red) and Western (blue) WEHL teams played in Baldwin on Sunday. SouthCentral players in the scrum including Sarah Hash (11), Ella Knapp (17) and Payton O’Neill (2).

Playing Moose a tough assignment for Ducks

By Jim den Hollander 

Editor/Publisher 

Saukhockey.info  

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.  

Ducks return from break and prepare for Moose

By Jim den Hollander 

Editor/Publisher 

Saukhockey.info 

Following its first off weekend of the season the Dells Ducks returned to work at the Lake Delton Ice Arena Monday, beginning a long stretch that won’t see them off again until Thanksgiving.  

Dells Ducks

October and November will see the team in action for seven straight weekends including two three-game sets and two four-game Showcase events in Blaine, MN and Merrimack College in New England. 

In all, the 20 games played in the next seven weeks will carry the team past the halfway mark on its 44-game USPHL Premier schedule. 

The last action for the Ducks was an encouraging weekend split with the Chicago Cougars. The team clearly is hoping to build on that momentum with two of the USPHL Premier Midwest-West Division’s perennial frontrunners next on the itinerary. 

Head Coach Shaun Falzone said there was a little rust to shake off in the first of two practices Monday, but added the team already looked better for the second session. All areas need improvement of course, but the transition game and limiting chances for the opposition is still the primary concern and likely will be for most of the season. 

The team looks more organized and confident in its own end, but still has some lengthy lapses and counted on some stellar goaltending performances to counter a pair of games this past weekend both surpassing 60 shots against. 

This weekend’s series will begin Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. and wrap up with a matinee contest Sunday at 1:30 p.m.  

New look Ultimate Tournaments returns

By Jim den Hollander
Editor/Publisher
Saukhockey.info
Ultimate Tournaments has been a part of the regular hockey season in Sauk County for more than a decade. This year the tournament series will return with its regular dates, including some massive events on Martin Luther King Weekend in January and President’s Day weekend in February.


The tournament offers a unique hockey experience for the teams that attend, with deals offered in the community’s top waterpark resorts, offering a great family weekend with parents and children provided with an exciting experience on and off the ice.


Ultimate Tournaments owner, John Schwarz and Tournament Director Johnny Schwarz also provide weekend jobs for dozens of referees, scorekeeper/timekeepers and directors in more than one location.

The Lake Delton Ice Arena is generally the primary arena on tournament weekends, but Reedsburg Area Community Arena (RACA), Pierce Park Pavilion in Baraboo and the Sauk Prairie Area Recreation Center (SPARC) frequently host games as well. Ice time rentals in Reedsburg, Baraboo and Sauk Prairie directly benefit the youth hockey organizations in all three communities.


Old School hospitality and updates is combined with modern era methods in making the players, parents and coaches up to date on all that is happening. In the arenas, Paper schedule/standings sheets are updated within minutes of the completion of every game and updates are also available online at http://www.ultimatetournaments.com thanks to John Schwarz who uses a home office in Chicago to keep everyone posted, often to events in more than one location on the same weekend. Schwarz’s office is jokingly referred to as ‘Toronto,’ as it serves a similar function to the NHL’s replay center in the Canadian city.


Players have become familiar with the ‘goodies’ provided to team managers at the start of each event, providing some hockey related items to welcome the players to the Dells. Also provided is an information book outlining the many activities available in the Dells and the cloth bag the items come in is a handy piece of equipment the manager can use for the remainder of the season.
While the Dells is the original home for Ultimate Tournaments, Schwarz now runs similar events in St. Louis, Chicago and as of this season, South Bend, Indiana.
The tournaments have some new names and a new look this season. The Dells tournaments will start in with the ‘Northwoods Showdown ‘21 Nov. 12-14 followed a week later by ‘Bucks And Pucks.’


The Martin Luther King Weekend event is once again a double tournament now known as the Glacier King Championship. With an extra day available, this has traditionally seen several Friday to Sunday Divisions along with some that begin Saturday and wrap up on the holiday Monday. This year the events will be run together Jan. 14-16 and Jan. 15-17.
A week after, the Cheddar Cheese Classic will be held Jan. 21-23, 2022 and the Dairyland Classic will also debut in 2022.

WEHL South Central 18U at Lake Delton Sunday

The Wisconsin Elite Hockey League Girls 14U team has been using the Lake Delton Ice Arena as a home base but several other local girls will get a chance to play a true home game in Lake Delton Sunday.

The 18U SouthCentral squad has held a practice or two in the local rink, but on Sunday the team, which includes Signe Begalske and Mallory Ruhland, teammates on the Badger Lightning varsity team and Katelyn Allen who has played for the Sauk Prairie Flyers, Sauk Prairie Monkeys and Badger Lightning.

The team will hit the ice on Sunday (October 3) for a pair of games against the NorthCentral/Northeast 18U squad, playing at 10 a.m. and again at 1 p.m. on an otherwise quiet day at the local rink.

A long day on the ice could continue as the Badger Lightning will be holding a Captain’s Practice at the Sauk Prairie Area Recreation Center (SPARC) at 8 p.m.

This marks the second weekend the Lake Delton Ice Arena will hold some high level events at the local rink. Last weekend, the barn was the host of a four-team Minor (2010) Peewee AAA event which included the Madison Capitols, Green Bay Gamblers, Chicago Fury and St. Louis Jr. Blues. While they played a round robin event both Saturday and Sunday, the Major Peewees (’09) also held a game Saturday afternoon with the Capitols and Gamblers tangling.

Player of the week honors for Ducks’ Cartland

By Jim den Hollander 

Editor/Publisher  

Saukhockey.info 

The Dells Ducks wrapped up the midpoint of its first off-weekoff week of the young season and got some good news along the way. 

Jacob Cartland scored four goals in two games this past weekend and was named as the USPHL Premier Midwest-West Division Forward of the Week.  

Jacob Cartland has made a great debut as a rookie with the Ducks this season. The Rookie forward has five goals and seven points in four games and was named as the USPHL Premier Midwest-West Forward of the Week — Photo Courtesy Gary Wiles.

One of the top scoring forwards in the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) as a forward with Kettle Moraine/Mukwonago/Oconomowoc, Cartland has made a seamless transition to the junior game. 

Playing mostly on a line with fellow rookie Caden Glamkowski, the pair have played a part on almost all 12-goals scored by the Ducks so far this season, they combined to total 16 points on the season so far.  

Players have been either working towards the season or competing for the past six-weeks and will be rewarded with their first break this weekend, giving many of the Midwest players a chance to dash home to see their family, pets and taste some home cooking.  

Hopefully, they get the most out of this weekend as they will return to play every weekend following until Thanksgiving – a total of 20 games, beginning with four more on home ice, then continuing with trips to the Twin Cities, Owatonna, MNMN, and Merrimack College near the border of Massachusetts and Maine. 

In his meeting with the media today, Head Coach Shaun Falzone said the players have earned the break with the pace they have been on so far – two practices a day for the past several weeks and a busy weekend both on and off the ice.  

The team will wrap up Friday, then return Monday to begin specific preparations for the Minnesota Moose, a perennial contender for the top spot in the division and one of the two division reps at Nationals this past season.