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.

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.

Ducks-Blades both looking to hit win column this weekend

By Jim den Hollander


This weekend’s USPHL Premier Midwest-West series between the Dells Ducks and Steele County Blades could feature a pair of teams looking to move up.

After missing the post season in 2018-19, the Blades improved to seventh in the nine-team division last season, finishing at 11-31-1-1 for 24 points, doubling its previous season’s finish.

The Ducks meanwhile dipped to 9-32-3-0 for 21 points and the eighth and final playoff position – the worst finish in the team’s nine-season history.

Both teams have a core of new faces in the lineup but will rely on the few returners to steer the ship.

For the Blades, Connor Lee, a speedy forward from Sydney, Australia, not afraid to throw his weight around made his presence felt in the team’s opening contest, scoring two of the team’s four goals on Wednesday as the Blades fell to the Minnesota Mullets 7-4.

The Blades held the edge in shots and owned an early 3-0 Mullets but couldn’t hold off the Mullets who took over the game’s second half.

The Ducks suffered through a baptism of fire on its opening weekend, outscored 20-1 by an experienced Chicago Cougars team that included five players from the 2019-20 Dells Ducks roster. However, Head Coach Shaun Falzone and Anthony Rohde said the experience could prove invaluable to a young Ducks team learning on the fly.

Defenders Cody Long and John Urgo both return to the Ducks blue line while Luke Marks and Adam Brown appear to be able to play defense or forward this season and Jerame Kennedy has looked good at the start of his second season. Also, in goal the Ducks relied on Isaac Hyde, a goaltender with previous USPHL experience, in the opening contest.

The newcomers played a role as well, Anthony Falzone turning in a brilliant goaltending performance through the first half of Saturday’s game and it was Jayden Tkaczuk notching the team’s first goal in his second career junior contest.

The Ducks are hoping to find a niche as a fast team not afraid of the physical play but found itself smothered at the offensive blue line often on its opening weekend.

This weekend could see a pair of thrillers with two teams close in their development stage looking to find their way to the win column.

Game time at the Lake Delton Ice Arena is 7 p.m. both Friday and Saturday night.

Ducks heading to Blaine following three splits

The Dells Ducks collected its third straight weekend split this past weekend and collected three of four points against the visiting Rochester Vipers following a 3-2 loss in overtime Friday and a bounce back 4-0 win Saturday.

They will be looking for a similar, if not better performance when they hit the road to play a Friday/Saturday pair against the defending USPHL Midwest-West Division champion Minnesota Moose.

Penalties – in particular three majors, were costly in the Friday night game at Poppy Waterman Ice Arena as the Ducks gave up a 3-2 decision in overtime after holding 1-0 and 2-1 leads earlier in the contest.

Luke Marks and Jason Heard fired the Ducks goals and Tyler Szturm turned in a 27-save effort between the pipes.

The following night, Jack Lundqvist, from Stockholm, Sweden stopped all of the 31 shots he faced to grab the shutout win and Heard opened the scoring 13:12 into the contest with the game winner.

The Ducks led 2-0 after a period adding another pair in the third, including the first of the career of Ben Scruton, the Ducks’ 16-year-old forward from Chicago.

Marks and Chris Wracker fired the other Ducks goals.

This weekend’s games in Blaine will be the first of four against the Moose with the return games wrapping up the regular season at the Poppy Waterman Ice Arena February 21-22.

In between, the Ducks will travel to the AllState Arena in Rosemont, Ill. to play the Chicago Cougars next Thursday, making up a game originally postponed due to weather in January.