Jimmy D’s Top 10 Games — #3

Ducks bring it on home!

Statistically, the Ducks claiming the USP3HL National Championship in the spring of 2016 is the biggest win in team history.

After all, only champions end their season with a win — technically, the Ducks also ended the 2014 season with a win over Florida Jr. Blades at the USA Hockey Nationals, but that was in round robin play – and the team collected the highest honor it could achieve in 2016.

The reason it has been pushed down a bit on my list is because the National Championship wins might have been a bit of an anti-climax as in that season, the tougher games came earlier.

Between the 2014-15 and 2015-16, the Ducks and several other Minnesota Junior Hockey League teams moved to the United States Premier Hockey League. It was decided the large group of newcomers would be placed in the USP3HL (a pre-cursor of what is now known as the USPHL Elite League) for its first season.

The Ducks were included in the nine-team Western Conference with teams from the also merged Midwest Junior Hockey League season forming the Eastern Conference.

The playoff road might not have been the toughest the Ducks ever faced, but it was certainly the longest.

The Ducks finished third in its division despite a nice 38-8-2 regular season record. As a result, the Ducks faced the Illiana Blackbirds in the opening round of the post season and (see Top 10 Game 10) came close to being eliminated right there, needing an overtime winning in game three.

That pushed the Ducks into a road series in Chicago against the expansion Cougars who finished one point ahead of the Ducks in the regular season. This one also went the three-game limit as teams traded 2-1 overtime wins before the Ducks wrapped it up with a 3-2 victory. Chicago defeated the Ducks in the second game of the series and the Ducks never lost again that season.

The Ducks and top seeded Forest Lake Lakers (who finished two points ahead of the Ducks in the regular season) advanced to the League Championship set along with the Traverse City Hounds and Tri-City Icehawks from the Eastern Conference.

Placed in one of two Round Robin Divisions, the Ducks defeated the Hampton Roads Whalers (3-0); and Jersey Shore Whalers (6-1) to advance into the tournament’s Final Four.

A 5-2 win against the Florida Eels advanced the Ducks into the National Championship game where they once again played Hampton Roads – Wrapping up the Crown with another in a record-breaking season of shutouts for Jared Young, 5-0.

That game – the National Championship clinching shutout, is Game 3 on Jimmy D’s Top 10 Ducks games list.

The triumphant Ducks returned home to a cheering crowd at the Poppy Waterman Ice Arena. The following season, the Ducks and all the other Midwest teams were bumped up to the Premier League where many of them still reside in one of the three Midwest region divisions.


Jimmy D’s top 10 games — #6


Ducks stave off Bush Cup elimination (2015)

The Dells Ducks were on a mission in the 2014-15 season to finally lay claim to the Minnesota Junior Hockey League’s Bush Cup.

But the team endured more than a detour on the road to the championship in the spring of 2015. In fact, the road swerved in Dead Man’s Curve fashion when the teams biggest rival, the Rochester Ice Hawks opened the Best of Three Championship series with a 5-2 win in Lake Delton.

Ducks didn’t get a chance to celebrate much in the opening game of their Bush Cup Championship Series in 2015 but they made up for it with an awesome 5-1 win in front of a packed house in Rochester a night later

The Ducks spent most of the season chasing the Ice Hawks who racked up a long season opening winning streak to grab control. The Ducks however were equally as dominant down the stretch and the teams crossed the finish line together with matching 35-6-1 regular season records.

The Ducks were given the nod as regular season champions and both teams were dominant in their opening playoff rounds, the Ducks breezing past Ironwood Yoopers and the For


est Lake Lakers while the Ice Hawks downed the Minnesota Owls and Hudson Crusaders in division play. Final Four crossover matches saw the Ducks getting by Wooster Oilers and the Ice Hawks advanced past the Illiana Blackbirds

The Icehawks defeated the Ducks a few times during the season, but all the late season meetings went the Ducks way, so the home fans and Ducks players were a little stunned by the opening game loss. But just like that, the team was looking at the prospect of missing out on Nationals unless they could pull out a win in front of a huge, always loud and mean Ice Hawks’ home crowd.

About 30 hard core Ducks fans made the trip to Rochester for Game 2 on the Saturday night, sitting right behind the Ducks’ bench and witnessing the team’s get up off the mat 5-1 in game two of the Best of Three Bush Cup Championship series, meaning for the third year in a row, the Ducks were heading into a winner-take-all game for the Championship trophy.

But that’s another story.

Jimmy D’s top 10 Games — #10

Ducks players celebrate the series winning overtime goal against the Illiana Blackbirds in the spring of 2016. They went on to face another stiff three game series against the Cougars on the road in the next round.

Game 10 – Ducks 3 Illiana Blackbirds 2 (ot) Feb. 29, 2016

The 2015-16 season was ultimately the most successful of the nine Ducks’ seasons so far as it is the only season of the first nine that ended with a win.
However, it almost ended before the good stuff even started.

Despite an awesome 38-8-2 record, the Ducks, finished its first season in the USPHL ranked third in its USP3HL Midwest Western Division. The 78 points put up was two fewer than the 39-7-2 Forest Lake Lakers and one less than the 37-8-1 Chicago Cougars.

The third seeded Ducks hosted the sixth seeded Illiana Blackbirds (23-22-2) at the Poppy Waterman Ice Arena and appeared ready to brush them aside with a 3-0 shutout (one of many that season for goaltender Jared Young). In the Friday night contest.

The Blackbirds refused to go quietly, pulling out a 2-1 win on Saturday night and forcing a third and deciding game in the Division quarterfinal to wrap up the weekend.

In the finale, a last-minute goal pushed the game into overtime and suddenly it was a next-goal wins situation for the Ducks and Blackbirds.

The Ducks finally secured the win on a bit of a controversial play as once chance was waved off by the official but without a whistle. As the ref was signaling ‘no goal’ one of the players (I believe David Kaplan, but I could have that wrong) lifted the loose puck over the Illiana goaltender. The official quickly changed the washout to a ‘point’ for the goal and the Ducks survived to move on and play the Chicago Cougars in another thrilling three-game series that ultimately sent them to the National Championship tournament.

The reason my own memory of this goal is so vivid is because I was stationed directly behind the net as the goal judge. It was a rare occasion for me at the switch and it is the last time I ever did it.