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Ducks Sweep Weekend

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Ducks Sweep Weekend October 15, 2012 5:14 PM

Coming off of a successful run at a league Showcase event a week earlier, the Dells Ducks rolled to three more Minnesota Junior Hockey League wins at the Poppy Waterman Ice Arena this past weekend.

The Ducks gave the Maple Grove Energy a rude welcome to Lake Delton with three increasingly lopsided victories. After a 4-1 win to open the homestand Friday night, the Ducks pulled out a 5-1 win Saturday night, then roughed up its guest 7-0 in the finale on Sunday.

With the weekend success, the Ducks, earned its first weekend sweep of the season against a Minnesota division opponent and extended its current win streak to eight games.

As a result, the Ducks now sit with a solid 12-4-0-0 record but that is only good enough for second best behind defending league champion Twin Cities Northern Lights who have yet to lose in regulation time after wrapping up a 2-0 weekend with an overtime win against Rochester Ice Hawks on Sunday night.

The timing is perfect though as the now 13-0-1-0 Lights are next on the list for the Ducks, playing three straight at Waterman this weekend.

First though, the team had to get by the Energy and at the end of the weekend, head coach Bill Zaniboni was pleased his players didn’t look past an opponent and that it didn’t let up in the third game as it did in its first home series a little over a month ago against the Steele County Blades.

“Yeah, that’s stuff we addressed. We addressed it this morning,” said Zaniboni. “This is our first sweep at home. It’s important to get that going and make sure teams know when they come in here it’s going to be a battle. We have to come up with our own team identity in our rink.

“I thought the boys did well, responded well. We talked about jumping on them early. They’re a team that’s very good in the third period. They outscore their opponents 2-1 in the third period. They come out very slow, so our whole thing – Friday, Saturday, Sunday was jump early, they start slow. The guys responded to pretty much everything we said.”

Zaniboni did say he would have liked to have seen his team be “a little more physical at times, but that comes and goes. We just have to make sure we do it on a more consistent basis.”

Yet another new player joined the fold for the weekend series – Gavin Porter, a 19-year old Boyne City Michigan native who came to the Ducks from the Soo Thunderbirds of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League. He made his presence felt immediately, scoring the first goal of the game Friday night and wrapping up a five point weekend with a goal and four helpers.

Several players stepped up offensively. Dunk Abbott turned a narrow 2-1 lead into a 5-1 cushion with two goals and an assist in the middle period Saturday while Ian Harris scored a natural hat trick with three consecutive goals Sunday, including an unheard of two shorthanded markers on the same penalty kill, 69 seconds apart near the end of the first period.

Those goals, the third and fourth of the night for the team, chased starting goaltender Brian Levorson from the crease, the second consecutive night the Energy yanked its starter.

At the other end of the pond, Robbie Meadows was unbeatable. Playing every minute of all three games, Meadows handled 84 of 86 Energy shots, posting a stellar .977 save percentage for the weekend and topping it off with the shutout Sunday.

The soft spoken 19-year-old Detroit native said he felt good coming into the weekend.

“Yeah, I just felt good. I felt confident,” said Meadows. “You’ve got to be confident to make those big saves; you have to be confident in yourself.” Meadows also gave full credit to the defense corps that allowed him to see most of the shots coming at him clearly.

Asked if the Energy had any tendencies offensively, Meadows said, “I don’t really pay attention to that. I just try to stop the puck.”

Meadows is one of five players that made the trek to Wisconsin Dells from Bozeman in order to stay with head coach Bill Zaniboni this season. Both the Bozeman and Ducks returnees have junior experience, but not on winning teams. Meadows said it’s all valuable though down the road.

“There’s always positives in those things and when the coach has all the confidence in the world in you, it just makes things easier,” said Meadows.

Also deserving of praise is the team’s penalty kill. Zaniboni has set the bar high for the special teams units and this past weekend, the Ducks allowed one Energy powerplay tally on 10 chances Friday, then ran a perfect penalty kill for the rest of the weekend, raising the team’s penalty kill percentage over the 85 percent mark for the season.

The Ducks team will stay at home for the next six games against both of last season’s league finalists.

First the defending champion Northern Lights will be in town this weekend. Game time on both Friday and Saturday is 6:30 p.m. with a noon getaway game to wrap it up on Sunday.

The Ducks have played the Lights once, at Bloomington Minnesota, dropping a hard fought 3-1 decision on Sept. 16.

Following that, the Ducks will enjoy a weekend off then kick off November with another three-game homestand against the Rochester Ice Hawks, a team they have yet to play this season.

Following that stretch of nine straight home games, the Ducks will not play another home game until January.

By Jim DenHollander

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