Ducks Vs Northern Lights 3 Games


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Ducks vs. Northern Lights – 3 games October 22, 2012 4:07 PM

The Ducks did something six other Minnesota Junior Hockey League teams haven’t been able to do this past weekend, but head coach Bill Zaniboni was not satisfied in the end.

After dropping a heartbreaker 4-3 in shootout at the Poppy Waterman Ice Arena Friday night to the Twin Cities Northern Lights, the Dells Ducks bounced back with an impressive 6-4 win over the same squad Saturday night to become the first team to defeat the league leaders and defending league champs in regulation time, 16 games into the season for the guests.

As a result, the Ducks headed into Saturday afternoon’s wrap up game having taken three of four points, but the Lights spoiled the weekend with a 4-2 win in the finale to take the edge in the three game set.

With a narrow win at Bloomington Minnesota earlier in the season, the Northern Lights now hold a 3-1 margin in head to head games with the Ducks who will need wins in both of the final two games at Bloomington in February to gain the edge in the season series.

The Ducks had more success against the Lights than anyone else in the league so far this season, but for head coach Bill Zaniboni, giving up two of three is not a satisfactory result.

Primarily he was displeased with the way his team played down the stretch in any of the games.

“We lost three third periods this weekend,” said the coach afterward. “I think they’re a team that’s well coached. I thought they were disciplined. When we come out and sit back and don’t play our style of hockey we’re not going to win many games.”

That whole “our style of hockey” thing was a little interesting this weekend as the best thing about Saturday’s win appeared to be that the Ducks beat the Lights at its own game – speed and finesse, but Zaniboni said his team still needs to be hitting.

“Yesterday, the game that we won, we averaged 24 hits a period,” said the coach. Today, third period we had nine. We had 11 in the first, then 14 in the second. That’s not enough for us. We need to go out and make it a street fight and we didn’t do that today.”

Much like the Lights of the previous night, the Ducks never surrendered, battling tooth and nail to the end and peppering Will Schluneger with shots down the stretch, but Zaniboni said it just wasn’t enough.

“We didn’t execute today,” said Zaniboni. “I’ll never say I’m satisfied with a weekend unless we win every game you know. After that there’s still always stuff to work on and get better at. I thought today was disappointing just because I don’t think we emptied the tanks. We have a week off; I don’t think our guys kind of laid it on the line.”

Lights 4 Ducks 3 (SO)

It wouldn’t be the Ducks heading into a weekend series if there weren’t new faces in the lineup and this weekend was no different.

The Ducks welcomed a pair of forwards from the Soo Eagles of the North American Hockey League –Layne Martin, a 5’11, 165 lbs native of Findlay, Ohio and Anthony Saleh, a lanky 6’3, 180 pounder from Grosse Point Farms in the suburbs of Detroit.

The pair was on loan for the weekend as the Eagles traveled to a series at Flint, MI.

Gone however were both Aviv Milner, a young French Canadian forward prospect who was also attending Wisconsin Dells High School and goaltender Zev Grumet-Morris, both sent to Hudson, in a deal that should mean more ice time for both.

The Ducks started strongly, holding 1-0 and 2-1 leads after the first and second periods respectively, but after a pair of goals by the Lights early in the third, the Ducks needed defenseman Jacob Stima to step up and pot the tying goal just 1:43 from the end, to push this one to overtime, even at 3-3.

Skylar Harding and Nick Albergo had the other Ducks goals in this contest and both goaltenders – Nate Gay from the Lights and Robbie Meadows of the Ducks weathered the storm through five overtime periods sending the game into a shootout where the Lights prevailed.

Despite the loss, the Ducks picked up a single point for being even at the end of regulation time.

Ducks 6 Lights 4

Down a point after one game, the Ducks looked to even the score on Saturday night.

This time, the team scored first and never looked back, opening up a 2-0 lead on a pair of first period goals, both by Martin.

After a rare penalty-free first period for the Ducks, some early penalties hurt the team in the middle stanza allowing the visitors a chance to cut the lead in half.

However, a shorthanded goal by Joey Bower just a few minutes later started a steamroller than saw other goals added in the second half of the period by Stima and Dunk Abbott and a massive 5-1 cushion heading to the third.

The Lights however, never surrendered, scoring in the early minutes of the third, then adding another with the goaltender already on the bench in favor of an extra attacker with just less than six minutes remaining.

Gavin Porter, the game’s first star finally put this one in the books with his goal into an empty net with 3:20 to go. The Lights added another while shorthanded in the final minute.

John Sellie Hanson picked up the win in goal for the Ducks, Isaak Tjaden starting for the Lights but making way for Will Schluneger immediately after the fourth Ducks’ tally.

Lights 4 Ducks 2

It seemed entering the game that if fatigue was a factor, it should favor the Ducks as the locals are used to the three games in three days stretch and the Lights seldom have three game weekends. It didn’t turn out that way though.

The Ducks were first on the board for a third straight game, Porter burying one 7:12 into the contest.

But just when it seemed the Ducks would carry the lead to the locker room, the Lights struck for two in 46 seconds, both in the final three minutes of the period and suddenly the Ducks were looking to come from behind.

After a scoreless middle frame, the Ducks started to put on some pressure in the third, but then two more goals in quick succession this time a little under two minutes apart in the middle of the third frame, padded the Lights lead to a nearly insurmountable 4-1.

Yari Neitenbach brought an end to two periods of futility, burying a snap shot from about 25 feet out, but the Ducks were unable to get any closer in this one.

McCutchin exits –for a while.

Sunday’s game ended the 19-run ‘Before’ run for Baraboo High School senior Brett McCutchin who will practice this week with the Ducks before suiting up for his final season with the Baraboo Thunderbirds/Portage Warriors cooperative team as it begins preparation for the Badger North season.

McCutchin played in all three games on the weekend and while he has never looked out of place on the roster, it is clear he has come a long way this season in terms of his comfort level, most notably as a physical presence for the Ducks.

Coach Zaniboni is excited for his young defender’s chances to lead the Baraboo team and also for him to be back in the lineup later this season and down the road.

“I think Brett has come a long way since the get-go,” said Zaniboni after Sunday’s game. “I mean, I remember seeing him at the camp, down in Chicago and I thought he was a little timid then. He’s really come out of his shell and stepped up and played really well for us. I thought he deserved to play the games this weekend for the hard work he’s done and being that it’s his last three of the year. He deserved it, he works hard.”

As for McCutchin, he has no regrets after making the decision to climb aboard with the Ducks at the end of the summer.

“It’s been fun. It showed me what the next level of hockey is and what I need to bring to compete and move on,” said McCutchin.

The primary level of change for McCutchin has been in the physical level of play and he showed with some big hits this past weekend, he can play that style.

“In order to compete with these guys, you have to be physical and that’s what I have to bring to compete with them.”

McCutchin said he was always comfortable with the team adding, “I felt like I could handle myself and compete.”

Now though, his role changes drastically from student to mentor and he will no doubt fill a major leadership role with the Baraboo squad.

“I hope I bring back the physicality and speed of the game (to the T-Birds),” said McCutchin.

The sturdy defenseman had an assist in his final game and expects to be a key cog offensively but added quickly, “I have to take part of the defensive part first and then jump into the transitions, take care of the puck.”

That defense-first thinking shows the influence of Zaniboni who despite having some of the flashiest and most offensively potent defenders in the league, is adamant that their number one job it to protect their own keeper.

McCutchin won’t be the only familiar face missing when the Rochester Ice Hawks pay a visit Nov. 2-4. Martin and Saleh were both shipped back to the Soo after Sunday’s contest and the Port Huron Fighting Falcons also called up a pair of current Ducks players. Gavin Porter wrapped up a short but successful run with the Ducks with a call up to the Falcons and was joined on the trip by fellow forward Ian Harris. Both will be trying out with the Falcons who are in action this weekend at home against the Jamestown (New York) Ironmen.

By Jim DenHollander

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