Advantage invites four Ducks to NCDC main camp

Jayden Tkaczuk (#86) and Adam Brown — Photo Courtesy Gary Wiles

Head Coach Shaun Falzone successfully checked another box on his list of goals since returning as Owner/GM/Coach of the Dells Ducks with four players invited to attend the main training camp for the NCDC’s Boston Advantage.

Since he stepped in as a partner for the Dells Ducks in the spring of 2020, Falzone listed several ambitions including restoring a solid relationship with the local hockey community and giving his players a legit shot at moving on to the next level of junior play.

The arrangement with the Advantage is nice as teams are in a similar position in terms of their USPHL identity. The Ads are entering just their sophomore season with teams at the NCDC, Premier and Elite levels while the Ducks are entering an 11th season, but just a second since a reboot under the guidance of Falzone.

Liam Hogan — Photo Credit Gary Wiles

“Our goal for the Ducks is to move players on,” said Falzone.

“With our relationship with Boston Advantage, we are getting the opportunity to give our Ducks, USPHL Premier players, an opportunity to prove they belong in the NCDC, tier 2 hockey.  We have helped these players improve over the season and now it is in their hands.”

Invitations have been presented to Jayden Tkaczuk (‘02/Channahon, Ill.), the team’s scorer in 2020-21 with 11 goals and 19 points; Adam Brown (‘02/Chicago, Ill.), one of the few returners this past season who showed his ability to play both defense and forward; Liam Hogan (‘02/West Greenwich, R.I.) who contributed a dozen points and goaltender Anthony Falzone (‘03/Prosper, Texas) who made 18 appearances in the blue paint for the Ducks.

“Tkaczuk, he is a player who is 5’5″ but he plays like he is 6’5″,” said Coach Falzone. “He has no fear and loves to aggravate the other team.  He has amazing hands and good speed.  He is a recent re-signing for us.”

Falzone got a chance to look at his player again in action at the Chicago Combine last month.

Anthony Falzone

“He played the last day at the combine because the yellow team was short players so (Midwest Commissioner John) Schwarz let me throw him in.  He had four goals and two assists, I believe, in two games.  Had all the scouts talking to him.”

Despite his young age, Brown stepped up as an on and off ice leader for a young Ducks team and Falzone said he deserves a shot at a higher-level team.

(Brown is a) “Very strong player for my organization, playing both defense and offense.  He played a big part in keeping our goals down and ended up being a leader on the team.  He has played juniors for three seasons, so he has experience and can play the game and he is blessed with quick hands and good speed, with a nice strong shot.”

Hogan and Falzone were both junior rookies as well. Both showed an ability to shake off the rough nights and move on, learning along the way.

“Hogan is a fast player, who is in great condition,” said Coach Falzone.  “He has good hands and is smart with the puck.  He was an Assistant Captain for us as a Rookie.  He is a pure leader and doesn’t know the word quit. I am really hoping he returns if he doesn’t make a Tier 2 team.”

A rival coach from the Midwest-West made a call to the Advantage to reccommend the young goalie. This Coach said to Coach Falzone, ‘I hope you do not mind, I had some talks with some NCDC teams on behalf of your son.  I know he is your kid and you will help him move up, but I really feel that Anthony needs to make the move to tier 2 so I figured you wouldn’t mind me talking to them about him.’

“He got thrown into the top spot last season and he was not supposed to be in that position,” said Coach Falzone  “He earned the respect from the team, and they played better in front of him.  He is an aggressive goalie. Players hate to stand in his crease. He is good at getting the respect from players and goalies from other teams.”

These four will be part of the team’s tryout June 28 at the Pilgrim Ice Arena in Hingham, Mass.  

Tough stretch for improved Ducks

By Jim den Hollander


While the results show more losses piling up, the Dells Ducks junior hockey team certainly is making strides toward respectability in its most recent contests.

The Ducks squared off against two rivals that have dominated them this season in the past two weekends, the Chicago Cougars and Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings.

Tangling with the Riverkings is simply too difficult a task this season for the Ducks. The top team in the USPHL’s Midwest-West Division, the Riverkings saw a stretch of 16 straight games without a regulation loss snapped at the Chicago Showcase tournament just before Christmas.

The team which makes a habit of switching to a higher gear after the Christmas Break has not lost in regular since then either, its 7-0 and 9-0 wins against the Ducks on the weekend running its current string to 9-0-1. The Riverkings are not only a near lock to make it to the National Championship tournament next month, but at this point the team is among the favorites to bring home the hardware too.

Nobody will ever concede before the games are played, but this season, the Riverkings are just too tough.

The same was thought to be the case with the Chicago Cougars who defeated the Ducks by a combined score of 20-1 on the opening weekend of the season. So, when the Ducks skated into an overtime period, locked in a 2-2 draw with the Cougars on the road, Jan. 22 it was a pleasant surprise for Ducks fans and a flat-out shock for the Cougars.

Adam Brown and Liam Hogan scored the goals against the Cougars with assists for Luke Marks and Kanyn Rogers.

Consider the fact the Cougars did not have league-leading scorer Jozef Martancik or recently added OHL defender and legit NHL Draft prospect Simon Motew in their lineup when they faced the Ducks in September and – on paper – this is an improved Chicago team. But the Ducks gave them a legit battle in this game and that is a testament to both the never-say-die attitude of the team and improvements the team has made at virtually every position since dropping its first 26-games of the season.

Next up is an opponent the Ducks have also always had a tough time with.  The Moose have been among the front runners in the USPHL’s Midwest-West Division since joining the loop and have twice made quick work of the Ducks in the post season.

The Moose used a pair of wins against Hudson Havoc on the weekend to slip into second place in the Division on the weekend and they actually sit just four points behind the Riverkings with a game in hand. They carry an eight game winning streak into the weekend set in Spooner and also picked up lopsided wins against a different Ducks team earlier this season.

Mallards Win


The point against the Cougars pushed the Ducks out of the bottom spot in the division for the first time this season last week as they slipped by the Rum River Mallards into the eighth and final playoff position.

However, the Mallards grabbed the spot back snapping a nine-game losing streak on Friday night with a 2-1 overtime win against the seventh place Rochester Vipers. The Mallards have dropped another pair since then, but they lead the Ducks by a point. Ironically, the game winner scored against the Vipers was an overtime goal by Noe Ben-Salem a former Ducks’ player who has been with the Mallards since just before the Christmas Break.

The Ducks have two games left to play against the Mallards which could decide the final playoff spot (as well as the winners of the Inaugural ‘Ducks Cup’), but the Mallards have five extra games to play, including two more against the Vipers who could be pulled back into a three-way race for two playoff spots in the next few weeks.

What’s left for the Ducks – 9 games.

@Minnesota Moose (Spooner) – 2 (Feb. 5-6)

Vs. Rochester Vipers – 1 (Feb. 7 at Lake Delton Ice Arena)

Vs. Minnesota Blue Ox – 2 (Feb. 19-20 at Lake Delton Ice Arena)

@Minnesota Mullets – 2 (Augsburg University Ice Arena.)

@Rum River Mallards – 2 (TBA)




Emotional and successful night for Ducks

By Jim den Hollander


The Dells Ducks collected their first home win of the 2020-21 USPHL regular season Sunday, turning in its most impressive 60-minutes at the Lake Delton Ice Arena on an emotional night and in front of a large crowd.

The effort and the 3-1 win couldn’t have been better timed as the Ducks welcomed the Rum River Mallards to the Lake Delton Ice Arena with a win that moved them into a tie for the eighth and final USPHL Premier Midwest-West playoff position.

Players, team management and fans paid tribute to Kelly Morris, the team’s first fan with a brief, but touching pre-game ceremony as Morris unfortunately passed away earlier in the week. Kelly’s family and many friends were on hand for the game, just hours after his funeral.

The victory confirmed the Ducks’ play at the Chicago Showcase just before the Christmas Break was not a mirage. The team entered the tournament with a record of 0-26-0-0 but have now picked up wins in three of its past five games and have been beaten in regulation just once.

Team captain Luke Marks switched from forward to defense at the beginning of the season but a December facelift saw a short-staffed and shell shocked D-Corps revitalized and deepened to the point that Marks started Sunday night on the wing of the team’s opening line.

Marks celebrated his first night ‘up front’ snapping the game winning goal home just before the halfway mark of the opening period. The goal gave the Ducks a 2-0 lead after Jayden Tkaczuk notched the opening goal, his team-leading 10th of the season a little more than three minutes prior.

Bryce Jacobsen was the set-up man on both goals. Playing in just his 14th game of the season, Jacobsen has collected nine points and moved into a tie for fourth overall in team scoring.

Marks added another, his fourth of the season in the middle period, this time accepting help from defenseman John Urgo and Mason Friedrichs who collected his first point as a Duck.

With the win, the Ducks boosted its overall record to 3-27-1 on the season, sliding into a tie in points with the same Mallards. The Ducks however have played 11 more games than the Mallards. The team will enjoy a rare weekend off coming up, then heads back into action against the Chicago Cougars on the road.

Ducks next home game is scheduled for Feb. 7 when the Rochester Vipers pay a visit.

MHC spoils Christmas for Ducks

By Jim den Hollander


Dells Ducks luck of late expired as the team headed into the Christmas Break looking to comfort itself following a 4-1 loss at the hands of the newly formed MHC team in its final game at the USPHL Chicago Showcase on Sunday (Dec. 20).

After a pair of wins and a valiant effort the day before against the Pittsburgh Vengeance the ultimately ended in an overtime defeat, the Ducks had trouble finding the mesh on Sunday.

That’s nothing new for the Ducks who entered the Showcase tournament riding a stretch of dropping four straight shutout losses and scoring just four goals in six previous December contests. But the team turned a corner in Chicago, collecting 14 goals in the previous three games before running into a hot goaltender in the finale.

The 41 shots for the Ducks is easily its highest total of the season, but the only one to elude Tate Potteiger in the MHC goal came from Aaron Sherlock (‘02/Warwick, R.I.) late in the second period with a set up for Liam Hogan (‘02/West Greenwich, R.I.).

The Ducks took a well-deserved Christmas Break following the contest. The 30-games played for the Ducks is the second highest total in the league so far as the only break from the game the team has had since the Labor Day weekend was a quarantine session in October.

The Ducks are currently scheduled to return to play Jan. 10-11 with a visit from the Minnesota Mullets.

Vengeance ends Ducks streak with overtime loss

By Jim den Hollander


After collecting its first two wins of the season against a pair of United States Premier Hockey League (USPHL) Midwest-East opponents, the Dells Ducks continued to look strong against a top-notch Great Lakes Division opponent Saturday (Dec. 19) at the USPHL Chicago Showcase.

Smedley turned in another brilliant effort between the pipes and the other players were clearly inspired, turning in the best 200-foot effort of the season despite dropping a 4-3 overtime decision to the Pittsburgh Vengeance

Playing a team locked into an intense battle for top spot in its own division, the Ducks were outshot by a margin of 34-29 in the overtime contest. But, for a team routinely outshot be 40, these numbers – both the 34 against and the 29 for, are remarkable and testament of a team that appears to have chosen the pre-Christmas tournament as its turning point on the season.

Teams were even at 1-1 after a period and the Ducks actually led early in the middle frame but needed a late goal from Trent Bachman (‘00/DeForest, Wis.) to send this one to overtime.

The other Ducks’ goals came from Andrew Wilkinson (‘03/Crystal Lake, Ill.) and Justin Ely (‘01/Fayetteville, N.C.) and assists were added by Luke Marks (‘00/Andover, Minn.); Adam Brown (‘02/Westmont, Ill.) with a pair; Liam Hogan (‘02/West Greenwich, R.I.) and Liam Donovan (‘03/Commack, N.Y.).

Nick Tessier ended it for the Vengeance 1:48 into the extra period so, while the Ducks’ first winning streak of the season ended at two games, the Ducks entered the final game of the weekend against MHC, another Great Lakes Division team the following day, it was unbeaten in regulation through three games.

Ducks roll over Motor City at Showcase

By Jim den Hollander


Having hit the win column the previous day for the first time, Ducks continued to play like winners in a 5-1 decision against Motor City Hockey Club in its second game at the USPHL Chicago Showcase on Friday (Dec. 18).Preview post

Alex Smedley (‘02/Woodbury, N.J.) returned to the blue paint for the Ducks and backstopped the win, but for the first time this season, Ducks outshot its opponent, wrapping up with a 31-23 margin on the shot counter.

A three-goal opening period sent the Ducks on its way in a game of two teams, both with one win.

Trent Bachman (‘00/DeForest, Wis.); Jayden Tkaczuk (‘02/Channahon, Ill.) and Kanyn Rogers (‘00/Lumsden, Sask.) collected the goals, the lone Motor City scored amongst that group as well.

Tkaczuk, Brandon Thiesenhusen (‘00/Verona, Wis.); Adam Brown (‘02/Westmont, Ill.) and team captain Luke Marks (‘00/Andover, Minn.) picked up first period assists.

The other two Ducks goals both came in the middle period, a second for Tkaczuk and the other scored by Bryce Jacobsen (‘02/DeForest, Wis.) with help from Rogers, Liam Donovan (‘03/Commack, N.Y.) and Trent Bachman (‘00/DeForest, Wis.).

The win boosted the team’s Chicago record to 0-2 while the Motor City squad was playing its first game of the weekend. Overall, the Ducks sit at 2-26-0-0. The road gets a little tougher tomorrow (Saturday, Dec. 19) as the Ducks play the Pittsburgh Vengeance.

Smedley backstops Ducks to first win

By Jim den Hollander


The Dells Ducks finally celebrated victory in their opening game at the United States Premier Hockey League (USPHL) Chicago Showcase tournament.

After 26-straight defeats to open the season, the Ducks scored a season high six goals and were backed up by the same goaltender that shut them out just a week prior in a 6-2 win against the Detroit Fighting Irish at the Arctic Ice Center in Orland, Park, Ill on Thursday (Dec. 17).

Alex Smedley (‘02/Woodbury, N.J.) played the second half of a lopsided shutout defeat for the Wisconsin Rapid Riverkings at Lake Delton Ice Arena on Dec. 10. Shortly after, Head Coach Shaun Falzone who has worked tirelessly to improve and add to the Ducks roster since opening day, pulled the trigger on a trade that brought Smedley to Wisconsin Dells.

Fast forward to Dec. 18 and Smedley, who faced a dozen shots to secure the second half of his team’s shutout a week prior, kicked out all but two of 45 shots to lead his new team to the win.

Teams were even at 1-1 after a period, Jayden Tkaczuk from nearby Chanahon, Ill. Responding to the opener from the Irish late in the first period, from Liam Donovan (‘03/Commack, N.Y.) and Adam Brown (‘02/Westmost, Ill.).

DeForest’s Bryce Jacobsen gave the Ducks its first lead unassisted 4:10 into the middle period and Captain Luke Marks (‘00/Andover, Minn.) scored the team’s first game winner of the season from Jerame Kennedy (‘01/Overland, Kan.) a short time later.

The Irish pulled one back before the end of the period but third period goals from Andrew Wilkinson (‘03/Crystal Lake, Ill.), Cole Rodriguez (‘00/St. Louis, Mo.) and Aaron Sherlock (‘02/Warwick, R.I.) distanced the Ducks from its competitor despite being outshot 17-13 in the frame.

Jacobsen, Rodriguez, Liam Hogan (‘02/West Grenwich, R.I.) and Kanyn Rogers (‘00/Lumsden, Sask.) collected assists on the third period goal.

The Ducks celebrated the win, but quickly began mentally prepping for its second of four weekend games against Motor City Hockey Club the following day.

Below, the Ducks celebrate an end to the longest losing streak in team history.

Riverkings crush Ducks in midweek contest

A solid start turned into another rough night for Dells Ducks as the visiting Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings carried a slim 2-0 lead out of the opening period but piled on another dozen through the final 40 and handed the local team the most lopsided of its 25 losses this season.

Thursday night saw two teams headed in different directions as the Ducks fell to 0-25-0-0 on the season while the Riverkings increased its margin atop the division wrapping up its 12th straight game without a regulation defeat.

The Ducks had a great chance to cut into the Riverking’s lead, opening the middle period with a 92-second two-skater advantage, but the best they could muster was a few chances, primarily from the outside.

After killing off the penalties, the second one carrying into the period’s fourth minute, the Riverkings used that momentum to widen the gap substantially.

After putting up five unanswered in the middle period and chasing Ducks’ starter Sean Piotrowicz from the crease in favor of Anthony Falzone, the Riverkings piled on another seven in the final 20 minutes. Between them, Piotrowicz and Falzone faced 66 shots in goal for the Ducks while Torger Stachurski and Alexander Smedley combined on a 21-save effort and a shared shutout in goal for the Riverkings.

The Ducks have one more contest at the Lake Delton Ice Arena Tuesday at 11 a.m. against the Minnesota Mullets who will be the home team for the game. Following that, the Ducks head to the Chicago area for a four-game weekend as one of the participants in the annual USPHL Chicago Premier Showcase. The Ducks will finally get its first real break since Labor Day with its next games scheduled for 2021.


Ducks still searching for elusive victory

Ducks goaltender Anthony Falzone tries to cover a loose puck at the top of his crease with defenders Luke Marks (#6) and Cole Rodriguez there to help out. Photo by Gary Wiles

By Jim den Hollander


Improvements and baby steps continue to show up, but 24-games into the regular season the ‘W’ is proving as elusive as ever for the Dells Ducks.

Restrictions on teams in other states – primarily Minnesota at this time had caused a much more fluid schedule which seems to change day by day.

The most recent tests included a pair of visits from the Northern Colorado Junior Eagles from the USPHL’s new Mountain Division who made the long trek to the Midwest to take on a series of teams, leading up to the Chicago Showcase Tournament Dec. 17-20.

The Eagles paid a visit to the Ducks Sunday evening and Monday afternoon, winning a pair of decisions 10-0 and 9-0. The Ducks also got an early morning visit from the Steele County Blades, falling 7-2 last Thursday and followed that up with a its third trip to Hudson in a week and an 11-2 loss against the Hudson Havoc.

Bryce Jacobsen and Jerame Kennedy notched the goals against the Blades with Kennedy and captain Luke Marks hitting the twine in Hudson.

While many have found it difficult to get home games in with all the health restrictions, the Ducks have clearly been a favorite stopping spot as their 24-games played is the second-highest total in the league, behind only the Pueblo Bulls with 27. They have played at least six more games and as many as 10 more than the other eight USPHL Midwest-West Division teams.

With their latest defeats, the Ducks blew past the 200-goals against mark while scoring just 36 so far.

Unlike previous games where the team got decent starts, but fell off in the second and third periods, the Ducks were buried in the opening 20 in both contests against the Eagles. However, the addition of players like Jacobsen (’02) and Trent Bachman (’00) from DeForest along with defenseman McCarthy Reed (’03) from Waunakee have injected some adrenaline into a suddenly, more Wisconsin-friendly lineup.

While it seemed the injury bug avoided the team early this season, the past dozen games has seen a path worn out to the infirmary. Veteran defensemen, Cody Long and Kanyn Rogers are both sidelined along with rookie forward Logan Potts and forward Reider Stelzl is among several just back from various nicks and ailments.

Bryce Jacobsen (#16) has been a great addition for the Dells Ducks this month so far. Photo by Gary Wiles

Jacobsen has been a great find and on a team with a pop-gun offense, he has been a regular contributor with four points (3g, 1a) through his first eight games with the team. Jayden Tkaczuk, an ’02 from Chanahon, Ill continues to lead the team with 12 points (6g, 6a) while another Illinois native, Adam Brown has eight points (3g, 5a).

Getting away from the game could be a benefit as the crazy schedule has seen games piled on.  When the schedule was originally printed, the Ducks got a reprieve from a busy start of primarily home games with a light schedule through November. By the time they ripped that page off the calendar though they had played nine-games through the month and were one of few teams not to get a break at Thanksgiving.

There are two more games scheduled for the Lake Delton Ice Arena – Thursday night at 6:30 p.m. against the Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings and Tuesday (Dec. 15) at 11 a.m. against the Minnesota Mullets. That will be followed up with four games at the Chicago Showcase and the team will hit the 30-game mark before finally getting its first real break of the season, for Christmas.

The Ducks currently have just six games scheduled for January, beginning Jan. 10, but who knows how much that could change in the days ahead.




Ducks add some Norskie power

By Jim den Hollander


If this were a ‘normal’ season, the Dells Ducks would be crossing the halfway mark on a tough campaign, but with the way things have been in recent weeks, this season’s team could benefit from some extra contests.

The Ducks hit the 20-game mark this past weekend with two more tough road defeats, both in Hudson. They Ducks and Havoc were the lone teams from the USPHL Premier Midwest-West Division over the holiday weekend. The host Havoc rallied from an early deficit and rolled to a 10-2-win Friday night, then added a 9-2 margin on Saturday.

A bright spot for the team has been the play of its newest players.

Bryce Jacobson was planning on playing his senior year with the DeForest Norskies varsity team this season but with the cancellation of the regular season for that squad, he instead joined the Dells Ducks. The ’02 forward collected his first junior goal 79 seconds into Friday’s game to give the team a short-lived 1-0 lead.  Trent Bachman, also from DeForest graduated a few years ago but also recently signed with the Ducks. He set up the Jacobson goal and had an assist on the other Dells’ marker, scored by Jerame Kennedy.

Another newcomer from the area, McCarthy Reed, an ’03 from Madison collected an assist on another goal by Jacobsen Saturday with the Ducks again on the board first, this time with Liam Donovan pulling the trigger.

The tough education for a young inexperienced squad. The Ducks are still searching for a win 20-games in and have allowed 183 goals against. While the Ducks have played 20, the next highest total in the division is three teams at 16 and the Steele County Blades who will be in town for a rare Thursday morning contest (9 a.m.) will be playing just their 13th.

Schedule changes

Each state has reacted to the current health crisis in different ways. Wisconsin has been somewhat liberal compared to other states, including Minnesota. At this point, teams are setting their own schedules and the Ducks – who already had a home-heavy opening to the season – continue to pile up home games.

The Blades will be in town for the Thursday game followed up by a pair of weekend matches – the first ever meetings for the Ducks with the Northern Colorado Eagles from the league’s new Mountain Division.

The Eagles who will also visit the Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings Friday and Saturday night, will be at the Lake Delton Ice Arena for a 5:30 p.m. match on Sunday followed by a getaway game scheduled to faceoff at 12:30 p.m. Monday.

The mid-day schedule will continue for the Ducks with another visit from the Riverkings Thursday Dec. 10 at 2 p.m. and on Tuesday, Dec. 15, the Minnesota Mullets will be in town for a 10:30 a.m. meeting.