Tough homestretch but good future for Ducks

By Jim den Hollander 

Editor/Publisher 

Saukhockey.info 

The Dells Ducks are hoping some solid play at the annual Chicago Showcase can carry over into the final 13 games of the USPHL regular season, beginning with a pair on home ice this weekend against the Minnesota Mullets.  

The Mullets, coached by Chris Walby who has Sauk County hockey connections, originally from the Lodi area, but playing his youth hockey in Sauk Prairie, also turned in a nice performance in Chicago and both teams are looking to keep their progress rolling into the new year.  

The Ducks currently sit eighth in the eight-team Midwest-West and currently trail seventh place Rum River Mallards by 11 points, so climbing in the standings would be a longshot, but team morale is high with the addition of several new players (see video) and this team is clearly not done fighting. 

The Mullets won three of four in Chicago and that builds to 4 of five when considering the team’s 3-1 win against the Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings on Dec. 11. Overall, the Mullets are sixth in the division with a 12-14-1-0 record, but the recent wins have the team in a position to move higher and home ice in the first round of playoffs is not out of the question. 

For the Ducks, build has been slow, but there are a number of benchmarks the team could set in the final 13 games of the season.  

TEAM  

As a team, the Ducks have already collected four wins, one more than last season and points-wise, the nine points is also one more than last year. But the team has shown a marked improvement in almost every area.  

The Ducks have scored 72 goals this season which is already seven more than last year with 13 games to play. Last season the team allowed 365 goals and the way the team is playing currently (225 GAG), they will likely finish under 300 goals against this year.  

The 386 Penalty minutes is third highest in the division, but only a fraction more than half of the 768 it collected a year ago. 

INDIVIDUALS 

A year ago, Jaden Tkaczuk led the team in scoring with 19 points. This season, that would not rank him in the top four as Caden Glamkowski (27g, 19a) leads the way now with 46 points, and on a pace to perhaps break some longstanding team records.  

Caden Glamkowski

In the Ducks’ opening season, Aidan Verbeke led the team with 37 goals and 76 points in 2011-12. Both records are still intact today, Ian Wood getting within one after a 36-goal 2013-14 season. 

The 27 for Glamkowski so far leaves his 10 behind Verbeke’s mark with 13 games to play. If he doesn’t score another goal, the ‘04 from St. Charles, IL will have the sixth highest total. His next goal will move him into a tie for fourth with Sherman Mowery and Jake Stima. 

Glamkowski is also in a tie for 15th with his 46 points, a total also reached by David Kaplan in 2015-16.  

Tkaczuk has collected 52 points (21g, 31a) in his two seasons with the Ducks so far, ranking him in a tie with Jason Heard as the team’s 16th leading scorer all time and Glamkowski sits 22nd. Both will make their way up that list if they can continue to produce in home stretch. 

Perhaps most impressive is Glamkowski’s points per game which this season is at 1.533. That ranks him fourth highest all time behind Verbeke (1.583), Nick Albergo (1.600) and Connor Rickabus (2.00). The leader came up with 12 assists in six games played, so that record might not be beatable, but Glamkowski is on an awesome pace.  

If age is considered, Glamkowski’s goals and points totals are the best by a 17-year-old. He is already three points past Billy Warren who collected 43 as a linemate to Verbeke in that first season. His 27 goals are by far the best by a 17-year-old, the next best total 19, also by Billy Warren. 

Go down one year and defenseman Jack Kopfstein will wrap up his season tied for the best season as a 16-year-old. The Vista, CA defenseman has put up three goals and a dozen assists for 15 points. That matches the five goals and 10 assists for Jacob Cameron of Oregon, WI in 2017-18. Kopfstein will unfortunately not be able to build on that as a collarbone injury suffered in Chicago has brought his season to a premature end. 

There are currently three 16-year-olds playing for the Ducks, Zach Windom and Oliver Cabala joining Kopfstein while two others – Jace Weimer and Sam Bachman have suited up at different times on an interim basis. 

That is five out of 15 players that have played for the Ducks as 16-year-olds over the past 11 seasons. Current Ducks Seth Stoutenburg and Thomas Howell also played as 16-year-olds with the Ducks. 

All these stats show while overall, there might be some reasons to grumble as the Ducks have been in rebuild mode 2.0 and 3.0 over the past five seasons, this young team is moving in the right direction.  

The future looks good in the Duck Pond. 

Ducks prepare for busy stretch

By Jim den Hollander 

Editor/Publisher 

Saukhockey.info 

The Dells Ducks absorbed a couple more losses this past weekend, but the young building squad saw a small, but marked improvement from Saturday to Sunday and individually, a core group is quietly putting up some awesome offensive numbers.  

The task may not be getting tougher, but for sure more frequent as the team is now well into a long and busy stretch that will not relent until Thanksgiving.  

The next two weeks is the busiest of all with 10 games in just over two weeks beginning with a three-game road trip, starting in the Twin Cities, and wrapping up Sunday in Owatonna, MN. The first two games will be against the Minnesota Mullets, a team off to a similarly slow start to the season and equally as desperate to turn things around. On the other hand, the Steele County Blades who will entertain the Ducks on Sunday are off to an awesome 4-1-0-1 start and battling among the division leaders.  

Previously known as the Lakers (out of Edina and Maple Grove), since its transformation to the Mullets, the team coached by Chris Walby, a Sauk County area native has a record of 10-3 against the Ducks. Last season the two teams battled four times; all Mullets wins by a combined score of 32-5.  

This season the Mullets have faced a tough schedule out of the gate and sit at 2-4 and looking forward to a chance to even its record up. 

The Blades have won the past seven meetings against the Ducks including five from last season and as a result, they now have a 9-5 edge in meetings with the local team dating back to the 2018-19 regular season. 

While the Ducks have found it tough to find the win column again this season with just one ‘W’ in its first eight contests, there are some sparkling individual numbers. The team that put up just 65 goals in 43 contests a year ago has already scored 18 in eight games this season.  

Caden Glamkowski, a rookie forward from St. Charles, IL has played a big part, in on all but five of the team’s goals so far. He has six goals and 13 points and is one of a group of players on a pace for an offensive season.  

Bryce Jacobson has three goals and 11 points through the first eight games – two more points than he collected in a half season in 2020-21. Jacob Cartland, another rookie, from Mukwonago, WI, was one of the WIAA’s leading scorers with KMMO last season and has made a seamless transition to the junior level with six goals and nine points. Also, Jayden Tkaczuk, the team’s top scorer with 19 points a season ago has missed half of the eight with a suspension but still has a goal and seven points in the other four. 

The team’s youngest player, rookie defender Jack Kopfstein, an ‘05 from California has shown poise and maturity beyond his years despite playing as part of an understaffed and overworked defense corps. Goaltenders Anthony Falzone and Drew Moseley have handled the bulk of the workload and while facing as many shots in a period as most will in a game, they have remained confident and excited about their work between the pipes. The effort and intensity belie the stats they have been saddled with. 

After this weekend, the Ducks will return home for a few practices before attending its first of three Showcase events before Christmas. This one involves the eight Midwest-West Division teams and will be held at the Fogerty Ice Arena Oct. 22-25. Following that, the team will begin November with a three-game weekend in its final homestand of 2021. 

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. 

Coach Walby’s hockey roots set firmly in Sauk County

By Jim den Hollander

Editor/Publisher

Saukhockey.info

Chris Walby, Head Coach of the Minnesota Mullets is originally from the Sauk Prairie/Lodi area and part of one of the original hockey families.

 

Now 46, Walby played his junior hockey with the Wisconsin Capitols in the USHL and played a few seasons of junior in British Columbia before ultimately turning his focus onto the other side of the bench.

 

He coached the Middleton Cardinals to a host of conference titles and some state championship tournament berths before stepping behind the bench of the Minnesota Iron Rangers of the Superior International Junior Hockey League, a team he coached for three seasons and ultimately purchased.

 

He purchased the Forest Lake (formerly Edina) Lakers in 2016 and renamed the team the Minnesota Mullets the following season. Along with the ownership responsibilities, Walby has been the team’s general manager and coach for the past six seasons as well.

Coach Walby has the best seat in the house, behind the bench for the Minnesota Mullets. Photo Courtesy Kels Witt

 

Walby agreed to take part in an email question-answer type interview with Saukhockey.info earlier this week.

 

Saukhockey.info: I moved here in 2000 and despite the popularity of the Badgers and such, I felt like hockey in Wisconsin was at least a generation behind the hockey states like Minnesota, just in terms of general interest at that time. What are your memories of being a youngster, involved in hockey in Wisconsin?

 

Chris Walby: I grew up on a horse farm set on 32 acres in between Sauk City and Lodi, long before Sauk City and Prairie du Sac built their rink. We were forced to play all our youth hockey in Middleton and for the Madison West Flyers. I have three brothers who also played, so my parents were busy carting us around to the rink.

 

My Gramma and Grandpa were the reason we got involved in hockey. They had Badger Hockey season tickets and took my brothers and I to our first hockey game. We got hooked quick. We loved the Badgers. When we played pick-up games on our pond or in our garage, we’d argue about who got to pretend to be Mark Johnson, John Newberry, Bruce Driver, Chris Chelios, and we always made our youngest brother play as Marc Behrend in net. I’ve got great memories from those days in the Coliseum.

 

SH: You started coaching the Cardinals a few years after I arrived here it appears. I remember varsity hockey for WDHS at that time was pretty much a club team. Middleton is a great sports town. Was the hockey program always stronger or was it tough getting players from the wrestling and/or basketball teams?

 

CW: I played for the Cardinals and graduated from Middleton High School in ‘94. I went on to play junior hockey and then settled in Milwaukee for a few years. When I moved back to Middleton, I was invited to join the staff at Middleton by the Libert brothers who were still the Co-Head Coaches. I was their first captain as they were my coaches during my senior year and their first year at the helm.

 

My Middleton high school teams were good when I played, but the program had a rough stretch for a few years just before I got there. The Liberts added me and another alumnus in Derek Ward and we quickly turned it around. 

 

We ended up going to “State” the first year myself, Derek Ward, Steve, and Tony Libert combined as a staff. We had a great run together. In nine seasons we made three state tournament appearances and won several Big 8 Titles together. 

 

I credit all three of those coaches as the biggest influences in my coaching career. My final season at Middleton finished with a 5 – 1 loss in the “State” finals against Pete Susens and tough Wausau West team. It took Pete 30 years to win that title and I remember thinking, ‘I don’t have 30 years to chase this’ and I moved on.

 

What I miss most about coaching high school hockey are the big games and big game environments. The crowds at Cardinal games were awesome. We built quite the program so the students came out in full force. 

Head Coach Chris Walby celebrates a Sectional title with the Middleton Cardinals varsity team.

The Sectional Semi Final and Final games were amazing. We played with full capacity crowds at Cap Ice, Madison Ice Arena and Verona several times. Obviously, I remember the moments during and following the big wins, but some of my fondest memories were lessons taught during tough losses. For example, we went to six overtimes in the 2006 “State” tournament and lost, but it may be one of my favorite hockey memories of all time. 

 

We had a great blend of characters on that team, and it was amazing how they gave everything they had in that game for each other. It was an amazing experience to watch. Sometimes I find myself being more of a cheerleader than a coach and that was one of those times. Time after time, each kid came back to the bench with a look in their eye that said, “I’m doing my best, Coach!” I’ll never forget that game and my time at Middleton.

 

SH: Your brother Steffon had a great playing (including 289 points in seven seasons in the AHL) and now coaching career (including an SPHL crown won in the spring of 2011 with the Mississippi Surge with regular goaltender Bill Zaniboni). Was he a big influence on you in the sport?

 

CW: Also, at the top of the list of my biggest influences as a coach and player, is my big brother Steffon.

 

As a player, I had huge skates to fill because he was awesome. Growing up, I was his biggest fan. If there was a big goal, he’d score it. I’m not kidding either. All throughout his career, when the game was on the line, nine times out of 10 my brother would get the game winner.

 

I learned a lot just by watching him both as a player and as a coach. As a coach, his demeanor is calm and collected. Regardless of the score. He’s always positive when correcting a mistake or encouraging his guys on during a game. I’m the same, but I’m a lot rowdier on the bench at times than he is.

 

He’s passed a lot of knowledge on to me about defensive zone coverage, offensive zone attacks, effective ways to improve special teams and how to run game day operations. He’s coached at basically every level now, so I’ve still got a lot more to learn from him.

 

SH: How did you first connect with the Iron Rangers? Was the move to juniors something you had been thinking about for a while? Can you talk a bit about life in the SIJHL? I have never lived in that part of Ontario but think those long bus rides in the dead of winter must be the longest and perhaps most excruciating in junior. Also, if you thought the rivalry between Middleton and Verona was strong, it must have been so fun as an American coach in Northwestern Ontario?

 

CW: During the summer of 2012, I was sitting at a Brewer game when I received a text from Sean Storie, a coaching buddy from Superior, Wisconsin. It said, “I think I just got you a Junior A coaching job if you want it.” Ever since my own junior career, I have always said that someday I’m going to run my own junior program.

 

So, I quickly replied, “Where?” Sean responded, “Iron Range.” I had no clue where that even was.

 

Walby behind the bench for the Minnesota Iron Rangers

The owner of the Iron Range Ironheads of the Superior International Junior Hockey League called me the next day and offered me the job over the phone. I told him I had no clue what the Iron Range was and had never heard of his team before. He said they were a second-year team, they weren’t going to renew the current head coach’s contract and they were looking for a new coach to take over and relocate the team 50 miles from Chisolm, Minnesota to Hoyt Lakes, Minnesota.

 

 

I told him I’d jump into my car first thing in the morning and meet him in Hoyt Lakes. It’s about a nine-hour drive from Middleton to Hoyt Lakes and I was totally blown away by how beautiful the Iron Range was in the middle of June.

 

I’ll never forget my first Impression of Hoyt Lakes. You take HWY 4 north out of Duluth for an hour and twenty minutes. All you see during that stretch of highway are beautiful lakes, tall pine tree forests and what seemed like a thousand deer.

 

There is one major road that runs through town, and it takes less than two minutes to get from one end to the other. If you were to stay on that same road, all you see for an hour is the Superior International Forest State Park before you stumble onto Silver Bay, Minnesota, and HWY 61. It’s incredible. It’s also the only way to Thunder Bay so I ended up getting familiar with the view and have a deep appreciation for the area which is also called the Sawtooth Mountain Range.

Local connection. Coach Walby coached Austin Frank, officially listed as being from DeForest and Reedsburg’s Sean Teske on the Iron Rangers. On the left is Mike Frank, father of Austin and Sebastian who attended Wisconsin Dells High School and played with the RWD Cheavers. Mike Frank is a good friend of Walby and has been a scout for the Mullets in recent seasons.

 

The first thing you see as you enter Hoyt Lakes is a welcome sign. The second thing you see is the Hoyt Lakes Ice Arena. I loved that part. It instantly made me feel like the rink was the town’s major focal point. Waiting out in front of the rink was its manager, Wayde West and hockey enthusiast, Francine Bonach. They gave me a tour of the rink, our locker room, the gymnasium and what ultimately sold me on the place, a full-size restaurant quality kitchen they used for weddings, banquets, etc. Wayde and Francine told me all of it was ours to use and for whatever I wanted to use it for. The move just felt right. I had everything I needed to build a team and to build NCAA hockey players.

 

Playing in the SIJHL was tough. It’s a Canadian league and with the exception of two years, we were the only American team in the league. The league was made up of teams in the Northwest Ontario towns of Thunder Bay, Fort Frances, Dryden, Ear Falls and then us, the upstart Minnesota Iron Rangers.

 

Hoyt Lakes is two hours from the Canadian border and once we would cross the border it felt as if it was us against them. The biggest example of this was a heartbreaking blown offsides call that led to our demise in Game 7 of the SIJHL Championship.

 

Regardless, the community and I ended up buying the team from the original owner, we built a winning franchise, filled our home arena, and brought something special to a community that needed us just as much as we needed them. It changed all our lives.

 

In the end, I brought dozens of Wisconsinites with me to the “Range” and ended up placing over 30 players into the NCAA. It was a special and unforgettable time for all of us.

 

SH: When the Ducks first joined the Minnesota League, I had never heard of Edina. Of course, now I realize Edina and Maple Grove might be two of the greatest hockey towns in the USA. The Lakers/Mullets are a team with a solid history in the Twin Cities area. Is that part of what made you interested in the team?

 

CW: I’m forever a Wisconsin guy, but I have absolutely fallen in love with the hockey culture in Minnesota and specifically in the Twin Cities. We have a unique set up here for junior hockey. We play out of Augsburg University Ice Arena and are in the heart of Minneapolis. We are less than a mile from where the Twins, Vikings, Timberwolves, Gophers play and several Minneapolis parks and landmarks.

 

We have a state-of-the-art gym, rink and an incredible coaching and game day staff. Logistically, we have five NCAA schools here in town and over a dozen more within three hours from here. These are the things I’ve always wanted in building a program. We have everything a player needs to develop on and off the ice and into the NCAA.

 

SH: Junior hockey teams — successful ones at least, always have a ‘family’ feel. Your bond with the players you coached is obvious and I think you might have more returners each season than most teams as a result. What do you specifically look for in players wanting to play for the Mullets?

 

CW: I look for players with high quality character. Good kids mostly from good families.

 

I think team chemistry is the most important factor in building a successful team and program. I try to fill the locker room each year with those types. It always leads to a tight locker room and players build lifelong bonds and relationships with each other. I feel that type of relationship between players make them compete so much harder and they do it for each other.

 

Those type of kids also make my job feel extra rewarding. They appreciate what we do here and what they’re given.

 

I truly care for our players and want them to reach their full potential. Nothing makes me smile more than when they have success and achieve their goals. I think they know that. The best phone call in the world is the call I get when a player has accepted an offer to play college hockey.

 

We get these players at a time where they can set the table for the rest of their lives and our guys are doing great. What we try to teach here goes beyond hockey. We want good players to turn into good husbands, fathers, and members in their communities. The longer I coach, the more I see that come to fruition.

 

SH: You, like Coach Falzone, seem to relish a chance to wear a lot of hats. You don’t appear to delegate much, preferring to look after most of the day-to-day stuff yourself. Does the paperwork and stuff that goes with being an owner/gm, take any time away from being a coach or have you found a good way to make it work?

 

CW: I’ve found a way to successfully make it work. True, I do wear a lot of hats and I’m involved in every aspect of running a junior hockey team, but I’ve also surrounded myself with several great people in part time roles that are key players in day-to-day operations.

 

I had my first full time assistant coach this past season and it was awesome. Max Seiter from Steven’s Point. He’s a former player of mine from the Range and went on to study Physical Therapy at NCAA Finlandia in the U.P.

 

Coach Max was great. Knocked it out of the park in his first year of coaching. He made the biggest impact in the gym. He knows his stuff and the guys could see it and bought in from the start.

 

Marty Sertich joined our staff this past season. Marty had an incredible career in the NHL and was a Hobey Baker winner at Colorado College. He’s from here and helps with the University St. Thomas women’s program as well.

 

Coach Walby is popular with Players and fans in the Twin Cities. Photo Courtesy Kels Witt

Coach Marty would come in one or two times a week to lead our skill practices. He’s still in incredible shape and would run the kids through edge work drills and a series of drills focused on passing, shooting, and getting “touches” in each week. The boys loved him.

 

Coach Tom Strelow is also still involved. He’s been a great mentor for our players and for me as a coach. Tom also serves as an assistant for Minnesota high school state champion Mahtomedi High School and is a billet father each year for several of our boys.

 

I’m also blessed with a great game day staff (HP, Nicki, Kels, Zoa, Kate, Roy, and Dan) that run our home games and travel with us for several road games. They’ve filled in several times when road teams were short a trainer or a broadcast guy and our equipment manager isn’t shy about sharpening an opposing team’s skate.

 

The toughest part about running a team is putting the team together. Several owner, coaches, and GM’s struggle at it. I don’t have the budget to run all over the country to scout and who wants to be away from their family that often?”

 

I’m lucky to have an amazing network of friends in hockey. I’m very thankful and grateful for them. A majority of my roster each season is built on referrals from people in hockey that I’ve met along the way and know we can provide a great place to play from some kind of an experience we’ve shared over the years.

 

I’ve always believed that if you treat someone well, they’ll always stick with you. I can say that my vets typically feel that way and if they don’t, that’s ok. Where can we move you to where you’re happy?

 

In the end, each locker room is the same each year. We’ve all had a blast and it’s a season they will never forget.

 

SH: How often do you get back to this area? Is it still special for you walking into Cap Ice or any of the other rinks in this area?

 

CW: I get back often. I had a special experience this past year during Covid and when our rinks shutdown in Minnesota. I let the boys go home for a week at Thanksgiving and when they came back, we moved operations and we all met at the Sauk Prairie Area Recreation Center (SPARC).

 

It was awesome and kind of a dream come true for me. It was a feeling of my life in hockey kind of coming full circle. I loved having the team on my real home turf. I introduced several to Culver’s, Piggly Wiggly, Devils Lake and the Dells.

 

The staff at Sauk’s arena was awesome to us and the venue worked perfect for our needs. Dave Jolicoeur has a great crew there and was great to work with. 

 

We skated out of Sauk City’s rink for two weeks. We played four games and practiced there before moving on to our Chicago Showcase just before Christmas.

 

It was a special trip. One that I will never forget. The boys thought we were going to be forced to shut down for weeks and we didn’t. We made it through. They sincerely appreciated it and we grew together as a team at such a crucial time.