Dells Ducks Weekend Preview

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Dells Ducks Weekend Preview September 21, 2012 1:46 PM

The time has come for the Dells Ducks to make its presence felt in the Minnesota Junior Hockey League.

It doesn’t seem like long ago, the team was just anxious to get the season underway and that’s because it actually wasn’t long ago. Suddenly though, the team is steaming toward the first checkpoint on the long road through the MnJHL campaign.

With its third straight three-game weekend and second straight long road trip, the carrot on the other side is the first weekend off. First though, there are games at Isanti, Minnesota against the Minnesota Owls Friday and Saturday and a stop on the way home at Hudson, Wisconsin to face the Crusaders late Sunday afternoon.

By the time the Ducks arrive back in town Sunday night, nine of 50 regular season games will be played and the local side will be familiar with six of its’ seven division rivals – the Rochester Ice Hawks the only team yet to battle the Ducks.

A 3-3 record heading into the weekend is satisfactory, but not much more than that as the players and definitely head coach Bill Zaniboni expected more early on in the season.

The Ducks are a bit of an enigma so far. On the good side, the team has scored 31 goals in its six games, notching five or more in four of them, but one of those games was actually a 7-6 loss to the Maple Grove Energy last weekend. However, the team has also allowed seven goals in a game and has struggled at times in its efforts to stay out of the penalty box and kill the chances when they are in the sin bin.

Coming off of a 1-2 weekend, the Ducks prepared for the tough challenge this weekend with an exhibition game at home Tuesday night against the Central Wisconsin Saints of the MnJHL’s Great Lakes Division.

The two teams were at different points of their development, the Ducks six games into the regular season while the Saints for some reason were still two weeks from its first regular season contest.

The Ducks rested several key players and rewarded some hard working players with some extra ice time on the night.

Ultimately the locals held on for a 4-3 win but it was far from a work of art.

“Obviously I wasn’t happy with Tuesday night,” said the coach. “A win’s a win, but we gave a lot of guys chances to play in that game to see how they do and we gave a lot of guys nights off. We played with I think 14 guys. I think the biggest thing was we wanted to see how guys would react in a game situation.

“We gave them a lot of ice time and put them in every situation we could. Zev (Grrumet-Morris) played in net and did a good job.”

The young keeper actually carried a goose egg into the late stages of the second period before a penalty shot goal and a well placed wrister a few minutes later cut into the Ducks’ cushion.

However, the game served its purpose which was helping the team prepare for the tough weekend ahead.

Zaniboni is also a big proponent of studying game film to learn opposition tendencies, but early in the season there isn’t much to look at for the Owls who have played just one time and Zaniboni said the video from that game was not available to him.

“We watched some of them from last year in the playoffs. The last available time to us to see what kind of systems them run.”

That gave Zaniboni an idea of the team’s identity and character but of course doesn’t allow him to identify specific players as the personnel is different this year.

“The big thing we always say when things go like this is we just have to worry about ourselves. Let us control the destiny that we want.

“That’s the mindset going into this weekend. We know it’s going to be chippy and hard hitting and we’re fine with that. We want to be a blue collar team that pursues pucks and sets the tone and forces turnovers with the forecheck, so I think we’ll be fine.”

Following the pair against the Owls, the Ducks will wrap up the weekend at Hudson with its first all-Wisconsin battle of the season against the Hudson Crusaders.

Technically, there are four teams from Wisconsin in the league now with the Stevens Point and Pleasant Prairie added on the Great Lakes Division side, but the battles with Hudson have been speical for the Ducks since the team started play in this league last season.

Making it more interesting, the new head coach of the Crusaders is a respected former teammate of Zaniboni’s, Scott Meyer.

"We played together for two years. Won a pro championship together," said Zaniboni.

A lot of mutual admiration and respect is there for sure, but while the rivalry is friendly, it’s still intense insists Zaniboni.

"Absolutely, I want to put it to him," said the former professional goaltender with a smile. "I mean, we’re buddies but not when it comes to game time. That’s just how the mentality is I think of guys who have played. We respect each other, but I want to bury him."

While the Ducks will spend the first two nights at Isanti, other league play will see the Steele County Blades continuing its tough stretch of road games to open the season with another visit to Maple Grove while the Northern Lights of Bloomington travel to Hudson. On Saturday night while the Ducks are in a rematch with the Owls, the Lights will stay on the road, visiting Maple Grove and the Ice Hawks of Rochester will play host to the Edina Lakers.

On Sunday, the Edina Lakers will pay a visit to Bloomington to take on the Northern Lights.

The Ducks will enjoy a week off the following week and weill begin preparing for the first of two league Showcase tournaments to be played at Pleasant Prairie Oct. 4-7.

By Jim Den Hollender

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