Duck Comes Back to Help the Flock Fly!!!
By Jim den Hollander
The 2021-2022 USPHL regular season was a tough one for Kai Neumaier but some he is hopeful some tough lessons learned will help him and the Dells Ducks this season.
Sent to the sidelines with injuries twice last season, Neumaier ('03/St. Charles, IL) still managed to suit up for 37 regular season games, collecting three goals and seven points.
A hard working forward comfortable in any on ice situation, Neumaier is looking forward to playing a bigger role and helping the team make a move in the standings this season as well. He can't wait to get started.
"We have a lot to prove," said Neumaier on a team questionnaire for returners. "Being one of the bottom teams last year, we were ruled out by a lot of people. But, it doesn't mean this season we can't change that. Off of what I have seen and heard about the Ducks already, I have full confidence we can prove we are a top contender.
"With a new coach and different players, I think it will add a fresh start to the Ducks. Returning to the same team with mostly different players will be different, but I'm excited to get started."
As an '03, Neumaier could play next season as well, but he understands as a returning player he is expected to be a leader this season as well.
"The returners from last year know what it takes. We know what it feels like to lose. We never gave up and we were confident going into every game," said the rugged forward. "Carrying that into this season will show all the new players what the Ducks are about."
Neumaier keeps it simple when setting goals for the season. He is unconcerned about how many points he puts up or how many minutes he plays although he would be happy to see a rise in both of those statistics.
"To win games," said Neumaier simply when asked about his goals. "We of course have a lot to prove but with the leadership and experience of the returners and the determination of the new players I have full confidence we be a top team this year."
Ethan Matthew Returns for 22-23 Season.
By Jim den Hollander
The Dells Ducks recently announced the return of Ethan Matthews to the lineup after a 13-game debut at the end of the 2021-22 regular season.
Matthews, a 6’1,” 230 pound forward from South Bend, IN made his junior debut with the expansion Cincinnati Cyclones last season but moved to the Dells for the final 13 games of the season, collecting a goal and two points. He also collected two goals and five points with the Cyclones.
Matthews said on an email questionnaire for the Ducks he enjoyed his run with the team last season but wanted to complete what he and his mates started.
“After playing for the team last year, there is a lot of room for improvement,” said the forward. I think (Coach Anthony) Rohde will help that as well.”
Matthews is effective as a force on top of the blue paint in the offensive zone, but there is more to his game that just screening the goaltender. Good hands should help him put the biscuit in the basket more often this season and the forward said he is also a good passer and has a good hockey IQ.
His parents are his biggest hockey influences, said Matthews adding his goal for the season is to collect 20 points and make a commitment to a college as he ages out of junior at the end of this season.
Asked about game situation preferences (ie: even strength, shorthanded etc.) Matthews said, “I just like to play anywhere.” His favorite player is Sidney Crosby, but Matthews said he tries to model his own game after Crosby’s teammate Evgeni Malkin.
Matthews likes to stick to a strict regimen in his pre-game meal – chicken more times than not but after games he is not fussy about what he eats.
With the season ready to roll, Matthews put away his golf clubs as his off-season favorite activities include both golf and disc golf.
Alic Schuster Signing His Contract.
By Jim den Hollander
The Dells Ducks will easily have the highest Wisconsin representation in its history this fall, the latest signing a defenseman from the Brookfield Stars.
Alic Schuster, a 5’7” 200 pounds ‘04 out of Menominee Falls can play either defense or forward, last year contributing four goals and nine points and appeared in 23 of 24 regular season games for the Stars and helped the team advance to Sectional finals before University School of Milwaukee denied them a spot in the State’s final four.
He hopes to carry the momentum from that season into a rookie season with the Ducks.
“(I) Wasn’t ready to stop playing hockey yet,” said Schuster on a team questionnaire. “Thought this might be a fun place to continue my career.”
On a self-evaluation question, Schuster said he is proud of his work ethic.
“Not a lot of people work harder than me and I have a fast release when I shoot,” said the utility player who counts his father as his biggest influence in the game.
Schuster is another who seems to thrive on adversity, counting penalty kill as his favorite time to be on the ice.
“It’s weird, but I love the penalty kills. It can be easy if it’s done right, and it slows the game down.”
Making the jump from WIAA to junior hockey can be difficult, but Schuster again likes the challenge. “The age gap, going from being one of the oldest in high school to being back at the bottom of the age group (will be a challenge),” said Schuster.
As for his own goals, Schuster is looking to develop as a player without setting points-type goals.
“(I want to) Play to the best of my ability and give myself the best chance I can to move up in juniors, to the NAHL hopefully.
The run to Sectionals is the highlight for Schuster so far.
“In my last year of high school, we made a run for state, but ended up stopping at the Sectional final after many people thought we wouldn’t make it that far.”
Living with a billet family will be new for Schuster but he is familiar with the Dells area having been here several times.
“I went at least once a year growing up and the town has a lot to offer if you know where to look.”
Schuster said he doesn’t have a specific favorite NHL player, “But I try to watch and play like Alex Ovechkin.”
Schuster might have some help getting used to the junior hockey life as he is the cousin of Dells Ducks returning defenseman, Daniel Smolen, from Beaver Dam.
Pregame routines consist of a meal of either pasta or a sub from a popular sandwich shop, then beginning to focus with 90 minutes to spare, listing to music in the stands or watching whatever activity is going on before the game on the ice.
Jackson Jones Signing His Contract.
By Jim den Hollander
The Dells Ducks may have its largest ever Wisconsin contingent on the team heading into the 2022-23 USPHL Premier hockey season.
Latest addition is Bloomer, WI native, Jackson Jones, a 2004 birth year 5’8” defense/forward who played this past season with the Regis/Altoona/McDonell Rams in the tough WIAA Middle Border Conference.
He is the fourth Wisconsin-based player to sign on since the start of the offseason.
The Rams struggled to a 6-13-1 record this past season, but they are generally a solid team and always one of the tougher challenges when they frequently play the RWD Cheavers although those teams did not cross paths this past campaign.
Jones scored four goals and collected 12 points to finish tied for fourth on the team in scoring. He made his connection with coach Rohde and the Ducks’ staff at the ‘Battle of the Dells,’ this past spring and clearly, they made an impression on each other.
“I really enjoyed ‘The Battle of the Dells,’ and getting to know people at it,” said Jones on a team questionnaire saying his biggest strength as a player is “Being able to fill whatever position is needed.”
Jones said Rams Head Coach Nick Stirmel has been his biggest influence in the game so far. His favorite situation to play in is with his team playing shorthanded.
Jones is aware of the challenge ahead and said his only goal for the upcoming season is “Ice time,” and he is willing to put in the work to earn his shifts. He expects the speed of the game and the ability level of his opponents to be the biggest challenge heading into a new season.
The young forward has been to the Dells in the past and said it seems like a nice small town. The billet situation will be new but also something he looks forward to.
He counts Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins as a favorite player he tries to emulate. He ran cross country in high school, a great pre-season training regimen. As for pre-game rituals he said, ‘Anything from Kwik Trip,” counts as both a pre-game and post-game meal and he is not superstitious, so he has no specific pre-game warm up.
The road trips will be a breeze for Jones who counts driving, reading and listening to music as off-season hobbies.
Jadon Mammen Returning For Second Season.
By Jim den Hollander
The Dells Ducks recently announced a third member of last season’s goaltending crew will be back in uniform this season with the signing of Jadon Mammen.
The ‘04 goaltender from Grapevine, TX appeared in a half dozen games for the team last season and like the others, there were great moments and solid periods, but overall, with the barrage of rubber faced, the final numbers were a bit misleading.
But the 5’9” 141 lbs. Identifiable in Lake Delton by his cowboy hat, is looking to help returners Anthony Falzone and Drew Moseley finish the job they started last season.
“The other returners and I believe in this team and that we can be great,” said Mammen on a team questionnaire. “I feel like I also have a lot to prove being the youngest goalie. I will have to earn the team’s respect.”
Mammen is ready to put in the work and drawing a more regular starting spot in the goaltending rotation and off-season communication tells him it’s a different attitude among both the returners and newcomers this season.
“I feel the biggest change (this season) is that we now have a full group of players that want to win. I don’t think there will be many effort, issues this year.
“I believe Bryce Jacobsen, Danny Smolen and Jack Kopfstein will be the most influential returners and that they will be great leaders.”
Head Coach Anthony Rohde was in town a few times to help the team and didn’t get a great look at Mammen, but he sure liked what he saw.
“I didn't get to see much of him in games,” said the Coach. “But in practice I would say we was the most developed from start to finish and he never takes a day off.”
For a team looking to climb back to respectability in the USPHL, Mammen has set the bar surprisingly high both for himself and the team.
“My goal for the team is that we win Nationals. It’s that simple,” summed up Mammen adding, “My goal for myself is to be a top five goaltender in the USPHL Premier and move up to Tier 2.”
Wouldn’t that be a great season?
Lucas Epperson Signing His Contract.
By Jim den Hollander
For the first time since ‘Money,’ Jaydn Munnelly wore the angry duck in 2015-16, the Cornhusker State will be represented on the Dells Ducks this season.
Lucas Epperson, an ‘04 winger from Kearney, NE recently signed on with the Ducks. The right-handed forward who can play wing or center played the last three seasons with the Lincoln Jr. Stars in the US High School – Nebraska league, collecting eight goals and 17 points in 32 games.
Like so many others this summer, Epperson said it was Head Coach Anthony Rohde that influenced his decision to play in the Dairy State.
“Coach Rohde for sure,” said Epperson on a team questionnaire. “He plays like I do. Therefore, going forward, he should know exactly what I need to do in order to bring out the best in me. I’m super excited to be coached by him.”
He stands just 5’4” and weighs 155, but Epperson’s self-assessment describes a player that is not shy about the physical game.
“I’m a grinder type player,” said Epperson. “I have lots of speed and can be physical. I love going against the other team’s top line. If I cause havoc and wear them down, that’s a win for me.”
Not only does he like to try and shut down the other team’s biggest weapons, Epperson said his favorite game situation is playing shorthanded.
“Penalty kill is my favorite situation to play in. Every time you ice the puck, you give your team more momentum. If you score a shorthanded goal that’s a mood killer for the other team and pumps your team up.”
Epperson credited his father as being his biggest hockey influence. “Every time I have a bad game, he picks me up and I do better the next game.”
As a rookie making the jump from varsity to junior, Epperson is aware the learning curve could be steep, but he is ready to put in the work.
“Speed of the game will be much faster. I will need to push myself harder to be successful, “said Epperson who will stick with general type goals for the season. “I want to focus on myself as a player and improve every day,” said the forward. “I also want to learn from my mistakes and develop my game the right way. I want to be an impact player.”
Biggest accomplishment for Epperson so far is a trip to High School Nationals and a third-place finish in Dallas last year.
While the challenges on the ice will take some work, Epperson faces some other challenges to including being a billeted player.
“I have not billeted with a family before,” said Epperson. “I am looking forward to meeting new people and getting to know them. I think it is great they are willing to take us in and it will make being away from home easier.”
A fan of the Nashville Predators, Epperson said his favorite player is Filip Forsberg, but he doesn’t try to emulate him specifically. “I watch lots of players and try to learn from them.”
An active athlete, Epperson has spent time in football, wrestling, track and field, golf, and baseball in the past, leading his football team in tackles for two seasons as a middle linebacker.
His pre-game routine includes eating Chicken Alfredo, playing Sewer ball, a soccer ball game with teammates and a post-game meal of brisket or “anything barbecue.”
Dawson Blue Signing His Contract.
By Jim den Hollander
Dawson Blue is one of the few returners this season, the epitome of a player willing to do whatever it takes to make the team.
Entering his third season, Blue will never be mistaken for the highest scoring or quickest member of the Ducks, but what makes him so great as a leader is that he has earned his ice time and his leadership comes by example as he pushes himself to be better in every practice.
He has accepted and flourished as a role player. While he doesn’t show up on the score sheet as often as others, everyone is aware of his work ethic and Blue plays with emotion, as excited for other players when they score as he would be for himself.
Blue should hit the record books this season as he enters the campaign 33 games shy of 100, a plateau reached by only a half dozen players so far in the team’s 11-year history so far.
Blue has endured a couple of seasons on a young team learning the ropes in the highly competitive Midwest-West Division of the USPHL Premier League. He, like the other returners is confident putting in that time will pay off this season.
“I think everyone will have something to prove this year,” said Blue on a team questionnaire. “I feel that this year’s group of guys have the ability to really make this team something special. We just have to go out and show it.
“I think the biggest change this year will be confidence. I think the boys will take games and practice more seriously and push each other to our limits because we have the confidence to do so.”
Head Coach Anthony Rohde has seen Blue's progress over the past two seasons and is looking forward to seeing what kind of leadership he can bring this season.
"Blue is another returner that has the work ethic you love to see," said Coach Rohde. "Not only does it show up in games but also in practice which will be a good example for the rookies."
The few players returning for a third season have gone to school on the mistakes and lessons of the previous seasons said Blue.
“The returners we bring back have been on the less fortunate side of most games,” said Blue. “I think we will hold each other accountable and make sure we don’t feel over-confident to the point of arrogance.”
Blue primarily has his sights set on team success and contributing any way he can to help that, but like any player, he would like to put some of those improved numbers himself.
“The goal I have for myself this year is to put more points on the stats sheet,” said Blue. “I want to generate more offensive chances right at the start of the year. Goals I have for the team is to be at least top three in the division.
“With the group of guys we have, we should be near the top and give other teams a run for their money.”
Watch for Blue to play a bigger role at both ends of the ice this season as he continues his leadership by example with the Dells Ducks.
Gabriel Krueger Signing His Contract.
By Jim den Hollander
One of the latest Dells Ducks signings is Gabriel Krueger, plucked out of the highly competitive Minnesota High School system.
Krueger is a 6’2, 200 lb. ‘03 forward from Blaine, near the Twin Cities. He collected 30 points over high school run.
“I’m very excited to see what Gabe can do,” said Ducks’ Head Coach Anthony Rohde and Krueger is happy to get a chance to prove himself on a junior squad.
“They took a chance on me and I’m excited to be offered to play for a good team,” said Krueger on a team questionnaire.
Krueger said his best attributes are his speed, passing and his “game sense.” Watching Alex Ovechkin while growing up was an influence for the rugged forward as well as his coaches and his father. He said special teams – both powerplay and penalty kill – are his favorite game situations.
He knows the game will be different at the junior level. “The pace of the game and the speed everyone will be at,” will be among the toughest adjustments said Krueger who said his goals for the season are: “To be the best player I can be and continue to get better.”
Asked about previous highlights in hockey Krueger picked one of his high school seasons.
“My sophomore year sticks out to me the most because we went on a winning streak and I was able to play in a few of those games and it made the year very enjoyable for Me. “
Krueger has never visited Wisconsin Dells but said he is looking forward to that as well as spending the season with a billet family.
As a Twin City area resident, Kreuger is a fan of the Wild and said he has lately tried to emulate some of the edgework of Kirill Kaprizov. He may be the one looked up to by his younger brother who currently plays at the squirt level.
Krueger’s pre-game routine includes a pregame meal of pasta, stretching and listening to music for game focus. Postgame the forward likes to eat pizza.
While in high school Krueger played some varsity lacrosse and he also enjoys frisbee golf in the off season.
Keynan Miller Signing His Contract.
By Jim den Hollander
Yet another Wisconsin player will help the Dells Ducks early this season and the Ducks have plucked him from one of the town's biggest rival communities.
Whether its youth, varsity or junior hockey, the Sauk County teams often run into Wisconsin Rapids-based teams in some of their biggest and most important matches.
Keynan Miller, entering his season as a blue liner for the Wisconsin Rapids (Lincoln) Red Raiders will join the Ducks after Labor Day as the first 'Before and After' player since Adam Stanton at the beginning of the 2014-15 regular season.
Miller, a 5'11" 165 lbs. right-handed defenseman will start the season with the Ducks, playing as many as 15-20 regular season games including the annual Minnesota Showcase, four games in Blaine, MN under the watchful eye of NCAA and ACHA College scouts.
He will then play his senior season with the Red Raiders and will be eligible to return to the Ducks following the final game with Rapids, likely with a few games remaining before the start of the USPHL playoffs.
Miller decided to take this step to get a preview of the junior hockey life after meeting the team brass.
"I really liked the great team atmosphere and coaching staff," said Miller on a team questionnaire. Coaches were very engaged in player development. They were also very accommodating with my upcoming high school season."
While patrolling the blue line for the Red Raiders this past season, Miller contributed three goals and four assists.
"I am a skilled player with both offensive and defensive abilities as well as a good hockey IQ." said Miller who credited his father along with his AAA Coach Ian Holloway and Red Raiders Head Coach Mike Schindler as his biggest hockey influences.
The benefit for Miller will be starting his final varsity season in mid-season form and he is not putting any extra pressure on himself in terms of goals for his rookie junior season.
"My goals for the upcoming season are to develop my game and become a better player on and off the ice," said Miller.
His biggest accomplishment as a player came this past season when the Red Raiders collected a 6-5 win against the Wausau West Warriors, its first win against the perennial conference front runners. The loss ultimately cost the Warriors a share of the league title this season while Wisconsin Rapids finished just two points behind the Warriors and two more back of Stevens Point.
Miller is a Pittsburgh Penguins fan, and his favorite player is Sid Crosby. "I try to emulate his edgework and his in-game awareness."
The older brother is carving a way for a younger brother and two younger sisters, all hockey players.
His pregame meal is generally a Subway sandwich, and he likes to eat Chicken Alfredo after games. Other pregame rituals include tying each skate three times before stepping on the ice for warmups.
Once he finally hangs up the skates at the end of the upcoming season, Miller will officially wrap up his high school sports career with his final varsity golf campaign next spring.
Drew Moseley Celebrating a Big Win Over Isanti.
By Jim den Hollander
The Dells Ducks are looking to improve at every position but in goal they are banking on experience playing a part in the move up.
A quick glance at the numbers for the Ducks’ goaltenders in 2021-22 might be misleading as Save Percentages were skewed by goaltenders exhausted from a steady barrage of rubber.
For Drew Moseley, 19, from St. Louis, MO, he gained junior experience, stepping up from the five games he started for the Rum River Mallards to 25 with the Ducks. But he faced a couple seasons worth of shots but to their credit, regulars Moseley and Anthony Falzone never wavered in confidence or ability to put rough nights behind them.
Now, in his final season, Moseley is excited about the prospect of guarding the cage behind a stronger, more experienced crew of defenders.
“Definitely coming into the season with unfinished business to take care of,” said Moseley in a team questionnaire. “This is my age out season. I’m putting it all on the line to win.
“The biggest change this season is going to be having an older group. Last year we struggled a bit with having such a young team. This year is a big year for a lot of guys and having a lot more experienced guys around the room is going to help impact the season.
“We all have the same goal – to go out and win every night,” said Moseley. It all comes down to competing and just believing in yourself and the guys with you.”
Moseley has set personal goals for the season but is keeping most close to himself. Primarily though, he says he and all the new players will enter this season with the same goal.
“My main goal is to just win games. That’s going to be everyone’s focus as well as building that tight group all year.”
One of those respected veteran voices in the locker room this season will for sure be wearing #34. He can back up his talk with his play on the ice and he will for sure be a big part of what the Ducks are hoping will be a turnaround campaign.
Daniel Smolen Signing His Contract.
By Jim den Hollander
A late season trade with the Minnesota Mullets brought Daniel Smolen to the Dells Ducks last season and the 6’1” 185 lbs. Defenseman/forward returns as a team leader this season.
A native of nearby Beaver Dam, Smolen was a physical presence for the Ducks last year and helped the team become more responsible in its own end of the ice in the final 12 games of the campaign.
He returns as an aging out player who is looking to play a part in the turnaround season.
“Last year I got traded to the Dells and I am coming back to the Dells because I like the coaches and the players are good with each other and do, stuff as a team.”
Head Coach Anthony Rohde said, “as an aging out player, Smolen will play a leadership role for sure.”
“Danny is another leader that is great to have on the team,” said Rohde. He can play any position you need him to and won’t complain about it. His want to win and have the team be the best they can be is exactly what you want out of a vet.”
Smolen said speed and physical play are his best attributes and along with this is the ability to be a utility player, something that could be huge if injuries hurt the team in any specific area.
He counts his family as his biggest influences, and he enjoys special teams – both powerplay and penalty kill – as his favorite game situations.
As far as goals set for the season, Smolen is looking more at team accomplishments than goals and assists.
“(I want) to be a better player and help the rookies so they have a good first season. For myself, have a better season than last year and make a run in the playoffs.”
Smolen enjoyed billeting locally and said staying with a player in the same house is like “making a new family and a brother for life.”
Beaver Dam is a great hockey town and the Smolen family has clearly spent time at the Beaver Dam Family Center with three older brothers that played and a younger sister that also plays hockey.
Pre-game rituals for Smolen include a Sub sandwich or pasta for a pregame meal, then taping sticks, eating, and listening to music for focus.
Andrew Crawford Signing His Contract.
By Jim den Hollander
After a three-game audition at the end of the 2021-22 season, Las Vegas native Andrew Crawford has signed on for the full 2022-23 campaign.
The 5’8, 187 lbs. Winger played for the Detroit Fighting Irish before coming to the Dells. He made an impression on the final weekend as a workhorse who loves the physical game.
“Crawford is like the energizer bunny out there,” said Head Coach Anthony Rohde. “(He) goes 100 percent all the time and is very exciting to watch if you’re a fan of the game.”
Crawford also liked what he saw despite a tough end of the season for the Ducks.
“It’s a tight-knit team and I feel like it’s a great place to improve my skills,” said the ‘05 forward on a team questionnaire.
Asked about his biggest hockey influences, Crawford said “My family because they push me to keep going and keep me motivated.”
As a returner, Crawford has had a chance to enjoy the billet experience, something he said makes him feel independent and he has already had a chance to spend time in the Dells area.
“I like it because everything is a close distance and there’s a lot of team things to do,” said Crawford.
Crawford has sandpaper type of game so it should be no surprise his selection as favorite players.
“My favorite player is Patrick Marleau but I try to play like Sean Avery, just a bit cleaner.”
Crawford’s pre-game rituals including a meal of plain pasta with Italian dressing.
Heading into the new season, Crawford will enjoy the summer months playing video games and “anything out on the water.”
The Return in Net of Anthony Falzone
By Jim den Hollander
The kid who watched the first Dells Ducks team and dreamed of his own shot with the team, comes back as a veteran leader in 2022-23.
Anthony Falzone has come a long way from the youngster who hung out with the original Ducks and enters this season looking for a payoff after two tough seasons backstopping a young squad.
One of two third-year goaltenders on the team, the Ducks will benefit from the experience and highly competitive nature of Falzone who comes in with something to prove this season.
"I do feel like me and the other returners will have something to prove this season. We will have to show that when the full team comes to play and we have everything we need to win, we can do the job," said the goalie on a team questionnaire. "We have to prove to everyone the Ducks aren't the last place team."
Falzone said he is not the only one that feels this way. A small group of returners will be joined by a solid group of transfers and rookies and Falzone likes what he has seen over the summer so far.
"I think the attitude in the locker-room will be very different than last year," said the goalie. "I feel everyone this season will come to win."
On a young team the past two seasons, there were a few leaders but the team lacked depth of experience but for some reason never lacked in confidence despite the adversity. Falzone is confident the team will pick up where it left off and get better results this time around.
" I definitely think we can carry it over seeing what kids we have signed so far and how high their talent is, I feel the whole team is confident that we will do well and confidence along with effort and heart is what you need if you want to win games."
Falzone, an '03 and Drew Moseley, an '02 enter the campaign hungry to reward a more defensively responsible team with their solid play in goal and he has set the bar high for this season's team.
"Goals that I have for the team is that we make it to nationals and my personal goal is get my foot into Tier 2 hockey by hopefully being called up for a little bit during the season."
On paper the team looks better in every area and at every position rolling into a crucial 2022-23 season. Falzone will play a big role in the turnaround as he once again will be a key figure in the blue paint.
Drake Johnson Signing His Commitment Letter to Aquinas College!!!
By Jim den Hollander
The Ducks are pleased to announce the commitment of defenseman Drake Johnson to Aquinas College in Grand Rapids MI.
The 6’2” 185 lbs. Defenseman/forward from Kalamazoo, MI joined a Ducks team mired in a slump last season and helped with team morale and momentum in the final 16 games of the season, contributing a goal and four assists and more importantly, playing with a chip on his shoulder and a definite mean streak when it came to defending in front of the Ducks’ goal.
That style of play carried over to others over the final part of the campaign.
Johnson came to the Ducks from Aquinas where he started last fall. He was the equipment manager for the Aquinas ACHA Division 1 Saints and that gave him the desire to try the junior game. He returns to the same team this fall, but this time will be wearing a jersey.
“Drake was recommended to me by a former Ducks player, Tyler Szturm. Tyler told me he was a player with a lot of potential, he just needs an opportunity. After watching video and meeting Drake, Tyler was correct. Drake was a player who had to learn to handle the speed and physicality of Junior Hockey. He left this season with great improvement. His skating, vision, and his physical play made great strides. I am excited for this opportunity for Drake and I know he will work hard to earn his ice time,” said Coach Shaun Falzone.
While the stint with the Ducks served a purpose, Johnson enjoyed his time there and the leadership role he played.
“I felt like with the Ducks being such a young team and me begin a bit older and having been around a college locker room before really helped bring a more mature balance to the younger roster,” said Johnson in an email interview.
The jump from junior to ACHA Division 1 can be a bit steep, but Johnson feels he is ready for the challenge.
“I think the biggest jump is going to be the speed of the game along with the physical aspect,” said Johnson. “The game at that level is high intensity, tough game that might take a couple games to get used to.”
Johnson attended a couple Showcase events with the Ducks and could have taken a look at some other college programs, but his sights were always set on a return to Aquinas.
“What attracted me to Aquinas was mainly being there beforehand and really seeing what it was all about, but from a golf standpoint before,” said Johnson. “My play was to return and be with the group of guys that I had been with in my time already at Aquinas. I’m glad we could make it happen.”
Johnson is determined to make his presence felt with the Saints, but he doesn’t have specific points total in his sights.
“I’ve set a few goals for the upcoming season, but it’s mainly just playing my role on the team and doing everything I can to fill my role to make the job easier for the guy next to me.”
The Saints will be looking to build on last season’s 19-9-0 overall record.
The Ducks ownership, management, coaches and players would like to wish Johnson the best of luck this season and thank him for the role he played last season in Lake Delton.
Adam Brown 2020-21 Season.
By Jim den Hollander
After a season away in Hershey, PA, Adam Brown has returned to Wisconsin Dells for a third and final season with the Ducks.
A rare fifth-year junior, Brown, a 6'1" 185 lbs. player from Chicago has played both forward and defense for the Ducks over the years. His junior career started in a Junior C loop in Ontario the year before joining the Ducks. Last season Brown contributed three goals and 16 points in 42 games with the expansion Hershey Cubs in the USPHL's Mid-Atlantic Division.
In 78 previous games with the Ducks, Brown has collected 14 goals and 33 points. His start couldn't have been more promising.
"My first game in the Dells (2019-20 season) was vs. the Steele County Blades in the Dells," recalled Brown in an email interview.
"I remember standing infront of Steele County net. My defense shot it in from the point, hitting the goalie's pad. I remember getting the rebound and scoring my first goal at the Lake Delton Ice Arena."
Depending on where he was needed, Brown has played forward and defense for the Ducks over the two seasons he was in Lake Delton.
"It doesn't matter to me what position I am playing," said Brown. "At each position I am a dangerous player with the puck."
Playing in Pennsylvania in a division with teams in New York and New Jersey, Brown got a chance to experience the east coast culture as well as a slightly different style of hockey.
"The Atlantic West style of play is speed and hands where the Midwest is more physical," observed Brown.
"From last season, I defnitely gained more speed on the ice and more patience with the puck," said Brown. While he has improved, Brown thinks the whole team is ready to take a step forward.
"The fans should see some wins and have a good time. Skating with some returners and new faces, I believe we will definitely make a run in playoffs and turn the Ducks around from last year."
Brown has had the benefit of soaking up knowledge from older players over his career. As an aging out player he said there is some desperation to help this team take the next step in its development.
"As an age out player I will have a huge role for the rookies as they look up to me and other vets on and off the ice. As this is my last junior year, there's always desperation trying to make it the best year yet," said Brown.
As far as goals for the season, Brown is primarily looking to secure the next step in his development.
"Among my goals for this season are: 1. commit to a college or university. 2. Go above .500 for the season and 3. better myself as a person and hockey player when I am in the Dells."
Brown is just 22 games away from playing his 100th regular season game in a Ducks' jersey. If he is able to accomplish that, he will be just the seventh player in the 12-season history of the team to reach that mark. Another player, Dawson Blue could hit the mark as well this season.
"It's crazy how long I have been at the Dells."
Alex Grove Signing His Contract.
By Jim den Hollander
A late addition to the team last season, Alex Grove was a perfect fit both on and off the ice for the Ducks.
The 6’1, 201 lbs. Forward from Waldorf, MD will celebrate his 20th birthday on Saturday (July 30) and will be looking forward to having a big aging out season with the Ducks.
A concussion limited Grove to just five games with the team but he made his presence felt in the locker room or from the bench in practice instantly after signing on with the local team.
On the ice, he brings a physical presence up front and again he has a knack for saying the right inspirational things at the right time.
While the team and management appreciate all he brought, he feels the love in Lake Delton as well.
“The coaching staff, ownership and the players that came on board,” all played a part in his decision to stay with the Ducks said Grove on a team questionnaire. “This is a team that I will not only have many opportunities with, but also a team that can win,” said Grove.
Grove knows what makes him fit on the Ducks so well. Asked about on ice strengths, Grove said: “My physical play, my shot (and) my versatility playing at whatever position the coach needs me.”
The rugged forward counts “God and my family,” as his biggest influences and said he relishes playing under higher stress situations.
“I love playing the forecheck at full strength,” said Grove. “Playing the PK (penalty kill) is another situation I enjoy playing. Overall, being a spoiler, doing whatever needs to be done to help my team win.”
Like the other returners, Grove has said it’s a Nationals or Bust season for him as well and he also hopes to attract attention from colleges so he can commit to the next chapter in his hockey career as well.
Having played small stretches of last season, first with the Hudson Havoc and then with the Ducks, Grove is looking to play a full season in 2022-23 and being healthy for the whole thing.
Recovering from injuries is part of the game and Grove said his greatest hockey memory so far comes from bouncing back from another injury in his senior season at Thomas Stone High School in Maryland as a senior.
“Battling back from an ankle injury my senior year and beating the best team in our division,” is the most memorable event so far. Also playing goaltender with Grove in high school was his sister who is now a college student.
He looks forward to creating some new memories now in the Dells, a town he has enjoyed so far.
“I like the atmosphere of the town,” said Grove, an avid Capitals fan who counts Tom Wilson as a favorite player but says he doesn’t try to emulate anyone.
“To be completely honest, I just go out there and play my own game and try to be me.”
A multisport athlete, Grove also played varsity lacrosse in Waldorf while participating in basketball and soccer at the community level.
The forward keeps his pregame prep simple with a protein-based pregame meal followed up by a small or medium coffee, then a bottle of Pedialyte during team warmups.
Ryan Hammer Signing His Contract.
By Jim den Hollander
The Dells Ducks recently added another utility type player as Ryan Hammer, a 2005 birth year 5’11” 170 pounder that can play either defense or forward.
With Adam Brown recently announcing his intentions to return to the Dells for his final junior season, the addition of Hammer gives the Ducks a second player who is comfortable at any position except goal.
Hammer is the team’s second signing from the Geneva Cyclones from the Central States Developmental Hockey League. He scored a dozen goals and collected 30 points with the team and counts passing and shooting as his best attributes.
Hammer says his father has been his biggest hockey influence. He enjoys playing in any situation, but his favorite time is playoffs.
On a team questionnaire Hammer said his goal for the season is simply “To improve my overall skills,” and he believes game speed and player size will be the biggest adjustments as he makes the jump to his first season of junior.
Among the off-ice adjustments will be his first time in the Dells community, a place he has never been before and his first time living with a billet family, something he admits to being nervous about.
Among the biggest accomplishments so far for the young player is winning the NAPHL in 2020.
Hammer counts himself as a member of Blackhawk Nation but says the player he admires and tries to emulate is Cale Makar of the Colorado Avalanche.
Also new for Hammer will be pre-game preparation rituals as he said he has nothing specific currently and he also has no specific pre-game or post-game meal preferences.
“I can eat anything.”
A multi-sport athlete, Hammer has played baseball in the past and counts a round of golf as one of his off-season hobbies.
Nolan Winkler Signing His Contract.
By Jim den Hollander
The latest addition to the Dells Ducks’ forwards group is Plano, IL native Nolan Winkler.
A 6’1,” 180 lbs. 2005 birth year, Winkler played last season with the Geneva Cyclones 16U team in the Central States Developmental Hockey League, collecting 16 goals and 36 points in 28 games.
After looking around for a junior team to make the jump to, Winkler and the Ducks proved a good fit for each other.
“I have been wanting to join a junior hockey team for the upcoming season,” said the rugged winger on a team questionnaire. “I seek to play at an elite level. The Ducks allows me to be somewhat close to home, yet still independent to grow and develop as a player.”
Winkler’s assessment of his strengths sounds like the talented but responsible 200-foot player the team needs to move forward.
“I am a team player who plays physical and has a good shot, but can be a good defensive and offensive player, creating opportunities for myself and my teammates.”
Winkler counts his father as his biggest influence in the game and said when he is not playing, he and his father enjoy being around the game.
“My Dad helped shape me into the player I am today,” said Winkler. “My Dad and I watch lots of hockey together and he has always supported me and helped me grow as a player. My family supports my love and passion of hockey.”
The rookie forward said he enjoys every game situation but added he enjoys playing the crucial shifts at both the beginning and end of the contest as well as overtime situations and he has kept his personal goals for the upcoming season general.
“I hope to become a stronger player and learn a lot as a rookie on the Ducks,” said Winkler who like many, figures game speed will be the toughest thing to adapt to.
“Also, the daily grind of hockey, as far as the on ice and off ice conditioning will be a big change. I haven’t really had the opportunity to be on the ice every single day, but I know it will help me go even further as a player.”
Among his biggest moments so far came this past season in the CSDHL when he fired a final minute goal go lift the Cyclones to a win against a rival squad. Tournaments also stick out for him, “because I enjoy playing several games in a row.” Sounds like a guy ready for the USPHL Showcase events.
The billet situation will be new, and a situation Winkler is looking forward to.
“I have never billeted with a family before. I am unsure of what to expect but at the same time, I am excited about it. I hope to billet with a family that provides me a home away from home.”
Winkler counts the home state Chicago Black Hawks as a favorite team along with the Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche. He said in the questionnaire the player he tries to emulate is former Black Hawk and current Montreal Canadian Kirby Dach.
Among his pregame rituals are eggs, oatmeal, yogurt, Biosteel, then stretching, warming up his body and stick handling as well as making sure he is fueled and hydrated for the test ahead. Post-game eats include pasta/pizza, salad and Biosteel.
Big Ducklings Join the Flock, to Add Strength Up Front!!!
By Jim den Hollander
The Ducks once again secured a graduate from WIAA varsity hockey signing Matthew Needham from Kenosha for the 2022-23 season.
The ‘03 6’3” 170 lbs. Left winger collected 16 goals and 28 points over three varsity seasons, wrapping up in 2020-21. Player and coaches impressed each other at the Ducks’ Futures Skate held in Lake Delton in March.
“When I went to the futures skate, it was the most fun I had playing hockey in a long time,” said Needham in a player questionnaire. “The coaches and players made me feel welcome and I wasn’t even on the team yet. That, along with the structure of the program, showed me it was a no-brainer as to where I wanted to go to further my hockey career.”
Needham said good hands and a nice shot are his biggest assets but added he is also comfortable on the forecheck and in corners allowing him to fill whatever role he is asked to play.
The winger credited his father as his biggest hockey influence, and he is comfortable in any game situation.
“I love playing in any situation on the ice,” said Needham. “But the rush you get from playing in overtime is second to none. (It) has to be my favorite.”
Making the leap to junior hockey can be a challenge but Needham is coming into camp this fall prepared to help the team in any way the team needs.
“My goal for this upcoming season is to be a consistent player in the lineup. I don’t care what line I am on and I know it has to be earned, but I want to show the coaches that I can be relied on and can be a valuable asset to the team.” Needham expects the length of season and schedule will be the toughest challenges as he makes the jump to junior this season.
“In my high school seasons, we would only play about 20-25 games a season. Also, the amount of time spent with the team (will be a challenge) as well.”
Needham counts his Senior Night game with the Kenosha Thunder as one of his career highlights so far.
“I scored a hatty and although we didn’t win, we came from 5-1 and made the game close. My senior year was also very shot due to Covid, so it was a nice way to go out.
As a youngster, Needham spent time in the various Dells resorts, and he is both nervous and excited about spending time with a billet family this season.
Among his pre-game traditions is a ham, or cold cut combo sub as a pre-game meal, with team and personal stretching before donning the headphones as he uses breathing exercises to prepare himself for the game.
Another Duckling Flying in From Canada to Join Our Flock!!!
By Jim den Hollander
The Dells Ducks returned to western Canada to add a second import recently, signing Kieran Correia from Sherwood Park, near Edmonton, AB.
The ‘04 forward stands 5’7” and weighs 155 lbs. He played the past couple seasons with the Fort Saskatchewan Rangers AA outfit, playing 18 games in a shortened season, notching three goals and four assists.
As an undersized forward with good hands and speed, he holds a special place for new Ducks’ Head Coach Anthony Rohde.
“Kieran plays very similar to how I played which is very exciting for me as a coach,” said Rohde. “His commitment to the D-zone will be helpful in those hard-fought games.”
Correia is equally impressed with the Ducks organization saying in a team questionnaire “I chose to play for the Ducks because Coach Rohde really stood out to me. His personality and coaching style suits me as a player and as a person. Also, I wanted to be on a successful team.”
Like Rohde when he played for the Ducks in the team’s first season, Correia is confident in his own ability.
“I am a speedy playmaker with good vision who can increase the pace of the game and make a tape-to-tape pass from almost anywhere,” said the young forward adding, “I am good in the defensive zone because of my awareness, stick checking and positioning. I have a high compete level which makes me hard to play against and allows me to play a physical game. I am a good forechecker and back checker.”
All in all, it sounds like Correia brings a lot to a team looking to make big improvements in its own end as well as being more dangerous at the other end of the pond.
“Correia said his father was his biggest hockey influence and he is comfortable in every aspect of the game. “The scenarios I enjoy the most are powerplay, overtime and full strength.”
Able to play center or wing, Correia knows the jump to junior will bring some challenges.
“The two biggest changes will be that hockey will be my main priority and I’m not going to be living with my family.” His season goals are mostly team related. “I want to do everything I can to help the team be successful and I want to have fun,” said Correia who has also challenged himself to hit double digits in scoring.
Clearly able to take constructive criticism, it says something about the player’s character that on one of the questions, asked about a high point in his hockey career so far, he is the first player in three seasons to select a negative stretch that turned into a learning experience.
“In my 2019-20 season, I went seven games with zero points. This really changed my perspective on slumps and how they should be dealt with. It taught me to be more positive.”
The forward has never been to the Dells before and while he said the billet situation is “Definitely out of my comfort zone, but I am looking forward to a huge change in my life.”
Correia cheers for the local Edmonton Oilers and says his favorite player is Zach Hyman. He played volleyball in the past and spends his summers playing competitive and recreational ball hockey at home. His favorite pregame meal is chicken with rice and postgame he goes for a smoothie.
Other pre-game rituals start early with light exercise in the morning with a specific stretching regimen and a specific mealtime before games.
Ducks Bring in a Duck Whose Future Looks Bright!!!
By Jim den Hollander
Heading into the 2022-23 season the Ducks are looking for improvements in every area. The signing of Jacob Behnke should help the team check off a lot of boxes this season.
He won't be imposing at 5'8" 170 lbs. but the young center comes to the Ducks looking to take the next step in an already stellar junior career.
The 19-year-old resident of South Elgin, IL honed his craft with the AA Geneva Cyclones before making his junior debut with the Islanders Hockey Club, a storied franchise in the New England Division.
Behnke played primarily with the Elite Division team last season but he showed he is ready to play at the Premier level scoring 35 goals and setting up 52 for 87 points in 42 games. He missed the league scoring title to teammate Ryan Pappalardo by a single point.
Behnke was on the ice in every situation, scoring four times and collecting 13 power play points but matching it with a half dozen shorties and eight shorthanded points. He sank seven game winners and there was also a shootout goal. In five playoff games, Behnke fired three more goals, two assists and one of the goals was an overtime series winner.
The signing is a huge feather in the cap of first-year Head Coach Anthony Rohde and both the player and coach are excited about the possibilities ahead.
"I chose the Ducks because of the new coaching staff and having the ability to become a better player," said Behnke on a team questionnaire. "Also, to further my hockey career and play college hockey."
"I'm very happy I get to work with Jacob throughout the season," said Coach Rohde. "He is a natural goal scorer with the work ethic that is very hard to beat."
Behnke is clearly valuable in every situation and on the ice, he is as noticeable in his own end as he is in enemy territory.
Among his attributes mentioned on the questionnaire: "Shooting, speed, going wide driving around defensemen, shot blocking, good vision of the ice, passing, screening the goalie and being a physical presence."
Not only is he capable of playing in any situation, Behnke thrives on in game adversity.
"I enjoy playing shorthanded because teams never expect you to go down and score on them while being very aggressive. I also enjoy playing in overtime. There is a lot of adrenaline flowing through your body to not get scored on and to win the game or even making a big play such as a shot block."
Behnke said his father has been his biggest hockey influence "Because he has never lost faith in me and helps push me to play to the best of my ability." With home games now just a few hours down the road, his father has to also be excited about the upcoming season.
Behnke is clearly not shy about setting the bar high for himself and that is apparent when asked about goals for the upcoming season.
"I want to be the leading scorer and points leader," said the confident center. I want to have colleges reaching out to me or higher tier teams."
He is aware the Premier Division game will be quicker but he had a bit of a taste with the Premier Islanders and it won't take him long to make his presence felt with the Ducks.
One of the games from last season sticks out for Behnke.
"I believe the game that sticks out the most was the second game of our Best of Three series that we had against the Springfield Pics to qualify for Nationals. I had the overtime game winner to send my team to the National tournament."
Behnke is familiar with the Dells area having been in town with his family before.
"Some parts can be crowded because it’s a tourist destination but overall, it is a nice town. I like Lake Delton also."
Perhaps following Behnke down the road could be a younger brother, 15 who also plays hockey.
Behnke is no surprisingly a fan of the Blackhawks and his favorite player is Artemi Panarin, a former Hawk now playing in New York.
Local fans will be looking forward to seeing Behnke in action. For now, his off season includes fishing, shooting, riding four-wheelers and working out.
Jaxson Armstrong Signing His Contract.
By Jim den Hollander
The Dells Ducks recently announced its first import signing of the off season with the addition of Jax Armstrong, a defenseman from Kimberley, BC.
The 2005 birth year 5’11” 180 lbs. Defenseman has played the past couple seasons with the South Island Royals AAA team in BC, putting in time with both the U17 and U18 teams this past season, contributing a couple goals and a dozen assists from his point spot.
“I want to become a better player and I found the Ducks to be the best place to do that,” said Armstrong in a team questionnaire.
The rugged defender said his best attributes are: “Always the hardest working player and able to play through adversity,” and he counts his mother as his biggest hockey influence.
Coach Falzone knows Jax’s family and told me “Jax comes from a pure hockey family. His grandfather was big influence in my hockey life and I was able to play with his uncles. They brought a lot of skill to the ice and I know Jax will bring a strong hockey game with him.”
Asked his favorite game situation Armstrong said, “The thrill of overtime cannot be matched.”
The Ducks have made some big moves to improve the blue line this past season and Armstrong’s primary goal is to be a contributor on that group.
“(I want) to be a solid defenseman that can be trusted by the team,” said Armstrong who expects the competitiveness and physicality to be the biggest challenges making the jump from AAA midget to junior.
Asked about games that stick out from the past, Armstrong said “Scoring with 0.9 seconds left in a game to bring my team to the finals.”
While he has never visited Wisconsin Dells, Armstrong has lived with a billet family for two seasons in BC and he looks forward to spending time with a new family in the American Midwest.
His favorite NHL team is the Florida Panthers and the player he tries to emulate is Aaron Ekblad.
An all-around athlete, Armstrong has played in provincial golf tournaments in BC, and he has a younger brother that also plays hockey.
Pre-game rituals include a light salad before the game, beginning stretching and workouts 90 minutes before taking the ice and putting on headphones with 15 minutes to spare to finalize his game prep. Alfredo Pasta is his go-to meal after games.
Off season hobbies for Armstrong include “Golf, fishing and hanging out with friends.”
Ryan Parkin Signing his Contract.
By Jim den Hollander
After an eight-game trial with the Ducks in 2021-22, Ryan Parkin (‘03/Crystal Lake, IL) will be returning for a full season in the fall.
The 5’8” 150 lbs. Winger is proof good things can come in smaller packages. Parkin played in Showcase tournaments before and after Christmas, putting up an assist and generally making his presence felt on the right wing.
Playing varsity hockey in Crystal Lake, Parkin chipped in another 10 goals and 22 points in 18 games. Speed and playmaking ability were the primary assets for Parkin with the Ducks and with the right linemates he could be a regular point producer this season as well.
While the coaches have been impressed with his talent, Parkin said the relationship with the coaches and players who created a family were the main draw for him committing for the upcoming season.
In a player questionnaire Parkin said his biggest hockey influence to date was his first hockey coach, Glenn Busch who is now his boss at work. The young forward also counted his parents as major influences as well.
Asked about his favorite game situation, Parkin said, “I love being on the ice and can adapt to any situation I’m put into.”
Parkin is looking to make an impression with his teammates saying his goals for the season are to improve both his hockey skills and leadership ability playing in the Dells. He expects the “speed and physicality of the game.” will be the biggest changes at the junior level, but he looks forward to the challenge.
Among his biggest highlights so far include scoring a hat trick in a championship game to lead his team to the top prize.
A visitor to the Dells as a tourist, Parkin said he is looking forward to spending the season in town and being a billet for the first time.
A fan of the Chicago Blackhawks, Parkin’s favorite player is Patrick Kane but he compares his style to Jonathan Toews, “since I’m more of a two-way player, but pro coach Kenny McCudden said I play more like Cam Atkinson.”
As far as pre-game traditions, Parkin said he likes to eat a sub sandwich, listen to music, stretch out and work on his stick handling to warm up his hands.
Parkin is looking to continue a long tradition of Illinois talent leading the way for the Dells Ducks this season.
More Than 3,100 #USPHLAlumni Skated In College Hockey In 2021-22
By Joshua Boyd / USPHL.com
With college hockey back in full swing in 2021-22, the revitalized (and expanded) landscape reopened to some of the best USPHL alumni in the nearly 10-year history of the league. The 2022-23 season will, in fact, mark the 10th anniversary of the USPHL’s inaugural season of 2013-14.
More than 3,100 USPHL alumni - from all levels of USPHL Midget and Junior Hockey - hit the ice for teams at all divisions of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA), College Hockey Federation (CHF) and USports, of Canada.
Several hours of research were undertaken by USPHL Media staff that involved reviewing college hockey rosters and utilizing the fantastic “Where Are They Now” tool on EliteProspects.com. From there, USPHL staff removed duplicate players, those who played in more than one USPHL league, in order to count each individual college hockey player only once.
The Tuition-Free Tier II NCDC featured more than 390 individuals who had played exclusively in the NCDC prior to moving on to college hockey for 2021-22. Including players who had also played in other USPHL levels, that number climbs to 754.
Just over 1,000 individuals who had only played in the USPHL Premier skated in college hockey in 2021-22, and another 500 came out of the USPHL Elite only. Including players who had played in other USPHL levels, the combined number for Premier and Elite was closer to 2,400.
There were more than 1,360 advancements by players who have skated in any or all of the USPHL Midget Divisions (18U, 16U and 15U - as well as the 15U predecessor, 16U Futures) to skate in college hockey in 2021-22. Removing duplicates of players who moved between leagues, the number of individuals playing college hockey who played in just the USPHL Midget Divisions tops 1,000.
For the 2021-22 season, there were over 300 college commitments from all levels of the USPHL, including more than 90 from the NCDC, including 32 advancing to the NCAA Division I level.
To learn more about how you can become part of the USPHL, go to USPHL.com/tryouts for contact information for every Member Organization as well as information on upcoming camps.
By Jim den Hollander
While there were marked improvements over the previous season, the 2021-22 campaign was a rough one for the Dells Ducks junior hockey team.
But one of the best diamonds in the rough to emerge from the year was the play of rookie defenseman Jack Kopfstein, (‘05/Vista, CA). An online search by the young defender, looking to find a higher level of play than what was available on the West Coast couldn’t have worked out better for team or player.
“Yes, I found the Ducks by searching online and looking around for junior teams to play,” said the smooth skating defender.” As a result, he attended a spring prospects camp in Lake Delton and both sides couldn’t be happier they crossed paths.
“Probably one of the best decisions I ever made,” said Kopfstein who before a season ending injury suffered just before Christmas, collected three goals and a dozen assists for 15 points, equaling a club record for points by a 16-year-old set by forward Jacob Cameron in 2017-18 despite playing just 29 games.
Despite being one of the youngest players on the team, Kopfstein seemed a perfect fit on the blue line and was perhaps the team’s most consistent and solid defenders on both ends of the rink. Kopfstein said it did not come so easy on or off the ice.
“It was definitely not as easy as it seemed,” insisted Kopfstein. I had to put in a lot of work during practice and during extra skates. The transition wasn’t too bad. The toughest thing for me was living away from home. The first month was a big change but after that it was easier.”
Kopfstein said the game is played differently in the Midwest than in California which added to the adjustment period.
“The style of play in the Midwest is much more physical and faster than California hockey,” said Kopfstein who clearly made the adjustments he needed to make.
While the injury ended his season early, Kopfstein has spent much of the summer off season in Illinois working with Rohde to continue his march up the learning curve.
“My training with Coach Rohde has been great. We’ve already made major progress from last season. I have high expectations for myself, and the bar is higher for the start of the season,” said Kopfstein.
“My goals for the season are to triple my points and be more of a leader. I could quarterback the team, mainly on the power play. I think our team has a shot at having a top powerplay.
Kopfstein will get a chance to meet his new teammates this weekend when the Ducks host its tryout camp in Naperville, IL.
Jackson Stubblefield Signing a Contract.
By Jim den Hollander
The recent signing of Lone Star forward Jackson Scott Stubblefield gives the Dells Ducks hockey team a tall and speedy addition to the offense and allows Head Coach Anthony Rohde a chance to continue mentoring the youngster.
While honing his craft with the Dallas Penguins AA squad as well as the Prosper High School Varsity team, Stubblefield has clearly had his eye on the Midwest.
“I’ve wanted to play for the Ducks for some time,” said Stubblefield on a team questionnaire. “I will finally be able to this season, and I am excited to say the least. I could not think of a better way to start a new chapter in my hockey career.”
Stubblefield notched 18 goals and 42 points over the past couple seasons in the Dallas area and looks forward to reuniting with both Rohde and the Ducks’ team owner Shaun Falzone.
“Shaun and Rohde were my biggest mentors in my early years playing hockey,” said Stubblefield who played with Falzone on the bench with the Texas Warriors and the high school varsity squad.
Local youth players are familiar with the tough technical drills Rohde uses to improve their skating and on ice agility and Stubblefield has studied at the same school.
“Rohde was also a big influence on my on-ice skill,” said Stubblefield. “He put me through skills sessions for a couple of years while he lived in Texas. I would not have the skill I have today if it weren’t for him.”
Stubblefield also counts Rohde has his biggest influence todate.
“He taught me how to take my game beyond the fundamentals and helped me understand the game better as a whole. I would not be at the level I am at now without the skill sessions, edgework and countless knee drops he coached me through.”
The lanky winger counts powerplay as his favorite game situation “Because it gives you a little more time and space to work with and you can really get some good puck movement going.”
Among the biggest challenges for Stubblefield will be moving to a different state, away from home.
“It will take time to adjust, and I will miss my family,” said Stubblefield. “But I look forward to all the new experiences that come with this change.”
With the adjustments and intangibles, Stubblefield is keeping it simple when it comes to goals for the season.
“I really just want to enjoy playing the game of hockey competitively and develop bonds with my new teammates,” said Stubblefield. “I guess I want to prove I have what it takes to play at a higher level as well, considering I will be a rookie.”
The forward helped the Prosper varsity team to three second place medals (one district and two state) as a sophomore and junior.
He got an early intro to the Ducks taking part in the ‘Battle of the Dells,’ where he got a great impression of both the team and the community.
“The town is pretty incredible – not what you would expect at all. It has that small-town charm where everyone knows everyone but is big enough for everyone to have their privacy. Everyone I met was nice and I look forward to my return.”
Stubblefield has a unique angle on hockey, counting CSKA from the KHL (Kontinental Hockey League) as his favorite team and he has no specific players he tries to emulate.
Among his game prep is chicken of Peanut Butter and Jam as a pre-game favorite and unfortunately, he will not be able to continue a tradition of a Jersey Mike’s sub after games, unless he wants to travel to the Madison area.
Other pre-game traditions include a 10-minute session on the exercise bike followed by a 10-minute stretch before joining the teammates for “group warmies.” Also, “Music choice is essential. It has to be something heavy like Metal or Rock to get the blood flowing.”
Austin Holmberg Signing His Contract.
By Jim den Hollander
The Dells Ducks announced recently a second player from Amery High School near the Wisconsin/Minnesota border will be donning the angry duck jersey this fall.
Austin Holmberg, a 5’11” 180-pound defender follows his teammate Reece Atkins who was one of the team’s first off season signees.
The offensive numbers indicate a puck moving defender who is not shy about getting involved the offense, perhaps in a similar mold to Jack Kopfstein from last season.
Holmberg scored nine goals and collected 21 points in 23 regular season games with the Amery Warriors last season, second best among defenders on the team, but 40 blocked shots prove he can stand tall in the defensive zone as well. He added two more set ups in three post season contests, helping the Warriors reach Sectionals for the first time.
It was a breakout season for the young defender, the nine goals he potted the only nine of his varsity career and his points total more than tripled his haul as a junior and despite his physical approach he sat just 26 minutes total in penalties in 80 games over four seasons.
Holmberg attended a recent Ducks’ off-season training session and said on a team questionnaire he was impressed with a “Good environment when skating with the team.”
The feeling was mutual. “He plays like Devon Toews, he puts up points, but is going to be a shut down defenseman as well,” said Coach Rohde when asked how he felt after seeing Austin skate.
While the offensive and defensive stats speak for themselves, Holmberg also indicated he is a physical player as well and he enjoys playing on the penalty kill.
Clearly a player who loves the game and keeps it simple on the ice, Holmberg said his season goals include “Light some dudes up and have fun.” He acknowledges though making the jump from varsity to junior, the speed of the game will be a challenge.
The physical part of the game is clearly the most satisfying thing for Holmberg who said he counts shift disturber Tom Wilson as his favorite NHL player adding, “I want to hit hard like him.” Asked who has had the biggest influence on him as a player, he replied “Any big hitter in the NHL.”
The rugged defender may weigh in at just 180 currently, but he works hard at the physical game both on and off the ice. Aside from hockey, Holmberg also enjoys golf and spends plenty of time in the gym, lifting and working out.
“I almost made the 1000 Pound Club in High School.”
Holmberg has visited the Dells area with family and said he liked the community, and he is looking forward to the billet experience.
Other than the lifting, Holmberg said listening to his favorite music and eating Chicken Alfredo are part of his pre-game routine.
Watch for this Wisconsin-based prospect to become a solid fit on the blue line for the Ducks this fall.
Dells Duck Player Moves on To ACHA D2!!!
Dells Ducks would like to Congratulate Zach Olszewski on Committing to University of Utah, to Play ACHA D2 Hockey. Zach played for the Ducks 2020-21 Season when COVID was affecting so many hockey teams and players. Coach Shaun Falzone used to coach Zach in the past and was thrilled to have Zach on the ice with him again. "Zach was big presences on Defense and we were lucky to have him help the Ducks finish the season," said Coach Falzone. Zach went back and played for his 18U Chicago Bruins and was able to graduate with his high school. The Ducks wish Zach Good Luck and we look forward to seeing your College Games.
Captain Duck Soaring Through the Ice!!!
By Jim den Hollander
The Dells Ducks are looking to improve on a tough year and instill a renewed winning culture in the tourist town, but there is one throwback they cannot do without.
Two seasons ago, Jacobsen, then a captain with the DeForest Norskies, turned lemons into lemonade, joining the Dells Ducks. It could not have been a better arrangement between the player and team.
Jacobsen will be the second player in team history (joining Chris Vella before him) to return for a second season as team captain. Despite a pair of rough seasons, Jacobsen’s presence has been an overwhelming positive for the team.
Head Coach Anthony Rohde made the easiest decision of the off season, bringing back Jacobsen as the team captain.
“The work ethic and drive to win is why Bryce has the ‘C’ again, said Rohde in an email interview. “It’s the attitude I want all the players to have.”
Locals were somewhat familiar with Jacobsen before he joined the team in the middle of the 2020-21 campaign as he played for the rival DeForest Norskies in the rival Badger North varsity league that all three Sauk County teams played in at the time.
With the pandemic destroying his final varsity season (Norskies were one of a few teams that decided not to play during that season), Jacobsen shifted his gaze to one of his semi-local junior teams.
“After my first skate, when Coach Falzone asked how I liked it. I told him I loved it,” said Jacobsen in an email interview. “Then, he asked if I wanted to play in the games that weekend. After that, I was all in. I loved how fast the practice was and how we did a lot of skill work.”
Jacobsen played in just 23 games that season but wrapped it up among the team’s leading scorers. The attributes listed above prompted Coach Falzone to select him among several returners to take the responsibility of being captain.
“When Coach Falzone named me captain I was a little surprised,” said the 6’3” 190-pound center. “I was very happy to be named captain. I was one of the captains in high school.”
Jacobsen and the Ducks endured another tough season but through it all, he continued to lead by example with his dedication, hard work and leadership by example. Jacobsen was on the ice in every situation, contributing 12 goals and 31 points. He and his teammates believed they could win no matter who the opponent was.
“Every week we would prepare for our opponents, and we would always have a positive mindset,” said Jacobsen. “At some points of the season, it was hard, but with the leadership of our veterans, we were able to keep a positive mindset.”
The captain said the frustrations of last season have inspired him and the other returners to make things different this time around.
“The other returners and I have had a long offseason just thinking about how we can't wait to get back to the Dells to start the 22-23 season. We all feel like we have something to prove. Coach Rohde is bringing in a bunch of great guys that are skilled and ready to put in the work to make it a great winning season.”
Leadership and attitude are Jacobsen’s contributions. On the ice, he plays every shift with ferocity and while he may not win as many style points as some other players, his bull in a China shop approach in front of the net has been a factor in him getting pucks over the goal line.
Perhaps his most notable asset is his contribution in the faceoff circle. Actual statistics were not available but anyone paying attention is aware he wins far more than he loses at the dot. Reflexes and natural ability play a part, but Jacobsen works hard on faceoffs as well.
“Coach Rhode and I spend a lot of time working on faceoffs and how to consistently win them,” said Jacobsen. “We would even watch film on just faceoffs.”
Jacobsen will enter his final season with 17 goals and 40 points to his credit in 66 career games. He seldom missed a game over the previous two seasons and if he is able to continue that trend, he will be wind up in an elite group that includes just five players currently, with 100 or more games played as a Duck.
Rohde and Jacobsen will officially begin the reboot when the team reconvenes in September, but the future skate held at the end of last season and tryouts coming up in the Chicago area in June will give them a chance to get things started. For Jacobsen, an ‘02, this will be one final kick at it and over the course of the season he will also finalize the next chapter of both his education and hockey career.
“There were a few colleges that talked to me in the showcases,” said the captain adding, “When making a decision on where I will go to college, I want to go to a school that has a strong business program, and a good hockey program.”
Reece Atkins Signing His Contract!!!
By Jim den Hollander
Once again, the Dells Ducks has plucked a quality player from the roster of a quality Wisconsin-based high school roster in the off season.
Reece Atkins, a 5’11, 175-pound right-shooting forward collected 10 goals and 31 points for the Amery Warriors in the competitive Middle Border Conference this past season.
He also played a key role for the Warriors in the post season, scoring in each of his team’s three-game run and adding an assist as well. That stands out as a high point in his career so far.
“This is the first time in program history a team (from Amery) has made it that far,” said Atkins in a team questionnaire adding his team earned the Sectional spot with a thrilling overtime win against rival New Richmond Tigers in the Regional championship match.
Atkins enjoyed a breakthrough season in Amery, more than doubling his 13-point total from his junior season.
After impressing the staff, including incoming Head Coach Anthony Rohde at a prospects/player's camp held in Lake Delton in March, Atkins recently confirmed his intention to help the Dells Ducks as a great signing of the off season.
Coach Rohde had this to say about Reece, when asked his thoughts about his new player: “It’s not often you find someone with his size, ability to see the ice, and hands, all in one. I was very impressed to see his ability to create something in tight areas, it can be game changing.”
While Coach Rohde was impressed with what he saw from Atkins in his visit to the Lake Delton Ice Arena back in March, the coach and team owner Shaun Falzone also made an impression on the ‘03 forward as he counted them as his primary reason for selecting the Dells Ducks on the form.
Atkins is looking forward to making his presence felt as a rookie and feels his ability to set the tone in a game could be valuable. He counts among his strengths “My ability to slow down the game and pick up the pace whenever I want. My ability to find open guys, create space for myself and others and make the right play.”
Jackson Henningsgard, another player who wrapped up a solid run as a junior player himself this past season has been an influence on Atkins who says he loves to play, especially with the game on the line.
“I enjoy playing on the powerplay. I also enjoy playing when it matters most, whether it’s overtime, when we need a goal or when we need to be defensive and prevent a goal.”
Looking ahead to a first season with the Ducks, Atkins is looking forward to helping the team on a quest to help the Ducks continue to improve from last season. He wants to be a regular contributor on the score sheet, but he also knows the step from varsity to junior is a large one.
“For me, coming from high school, the pace and intensity of the game will be the biggest factor,” predicted the forward.
He is looking forward to the billet experience and spending a season in Wisconsin Dells, a community he has visited before. Currently located a stone’s throw from the Minnesota border, it’s no surprise the Wild his favorite hockey team, but he counts Patrick Kane, Patrice Bergeron and Connor McDavid as players he admires and tries to emulate.
A three-sport athlete, Atkins also enjoys football and baseball and he says Chicken Alfredo is a favorite pre-game and/or post-game meal.
PAST NEWS STORIES!!!
Loss of a Great Man and Coach, to Early in his Life.
Ryan Frew: Coach, Leader, Father, Son, Role Model For All
"There is no greater reward than knowing that you have had a positive impact on someone's life journey" - Ryan Frew
The United States Premier Hockey League lost an amazing person in Ryan Frew, the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs’ NCDC head coach, on Monday, Oct. 5. Ryan died of complications arising from peritonitis at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.
The USPHL and all of its Member Organizations express its deepest sympathies to Ryan’s wife Nanna and his sons Seamus and Quentin, his daughter Layla, as well as his extended family, the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs organization, and all others whose lives he touched.
It was a fitting reward when, in 2017, Frew received the New Hampshire Union-Leader Forty Under Forty Award, recognizing his great service to youth in New Hampshire. In the accompanying article, when asked why he chose his profession, his answer was straightforward:
“I love working with people. My chosen profession offers me the opportunity to support and influence young men’s lives during a critical stage of their development and help guide them to become the best version of themselves,” Frew told the Union-Leader. “There is no greater reward than knowing that you have had a positive impact on someone's life journey.”
Frew had a positive impact on everyone he met, no matter where he went, extending beyond the leagues, to the greater hockey community. Coaches from across the hockey realm spoke about their concern for Frew’s health during his illness.
Frew’s history with the Monarchs (and with many of the Monarchs’ opponents both then and currently with the USPHL) goes well back to the first decade of the 2000s, coaching the Monarchs’ former Empire Junior Hockey League. Ryan was hired by the Monarchs in 2004.
He brought the Monarchs to the Tier-3 Jr. B National Championship games in 2007 and 2011, and he was also on the bench for three straight Monarchs’ Tier-3 Jr. A National Championship wins from 2007 through 2009 and again in 2012.
He coached the Monarchs to Empire Jr. Hockey League titles in 2010 and 2012, as well. He also saw his Monarchs receive a USA Hockey Team Sportsmanship Award and he was an All-Star Coach in six of his eight Empire seasons.
Frew led the Monarchs to the first Eastern Hockey League regular season championship in 2014, and in 2016, the Monarchs added Playoff Champions to that resume.
Within the USPHL, he helped shepherd the Monarchs into the NCDC to start the 2018-19 season, his team’s start in the league was so impressive, he was named NCDC Coach Of The Year after that first season.
Rest In Peace, Ryan. Everyone in the USPHL will miss you and that big smile and laugh.
Come out and support this important cause and cheer on your home town Dells Ducks Junior Hockey Team
The Dell's Ducks Annual Food Drive Weekend takes place this Friday November 2nd and Saturday November 3rd at 7 pm, as they face off in a two game tilt against their Division rival Hudson Havoc.
This year the Dells Ducks Junior Hockey Team and the Wisconsin Dells Food Pantry are partnering up to help feed Families in need during the holiday season.
The team's goal is to surpass last years record donation of more than 1100 pounds of food donated to children, the elderly, and economically disadvantaged families who would otherwise go hungry during the holidays.
One in Nine Wisconsin Families either go hungry or ration what they eat as hard choices must be made during the cold months. The Dells Ducks are doing their part to help these families in need.
As part of the Ducks commitment to community, players will be volunteering during various times at the Wisconsin Dells Food Pantry. They will take part in stocking of the food items as well as delivery to area homes.
Please support this cause by attending this weekends charity event and bring along at least one non-perishable food item and receive a dollar off admission.
You can expect an exciting evening of speed, checking, and scoring when these two division rivals face off against each other.
The Dells Ducks Junior Hockey Team plays all home games at the Poppy Waterman Ice Arena, 112 Miller Drive Lake Delton WI
Defencemen Beckett Patten #5 & Jacob Bevins #19 are joined by forward Nolan Echols #11 in celebrating Alec Scarsella's goal
The Ducks traveled to the Fogerty Ice Arena in Blaine Minnesota for the USPHL MIAC 3 day, 3 game College Showcase weekend.
The team showed discipline and maturity in their commanding victory over the Chicago Cougars, and were very competitive in two close contests on days one and two.
Early in Game 2, the team found themselves short defensively as team captain Austin Phillips left the game due to injury. The team continued to play solid hockey, but the loss of "Philly" along with some untimely penalties, proved too much to overcome as they lost to the Minnesota Blue Ox.
After feeling the sting of defeat less than 24 hours before,the Ducks very talented squad put all the pieces together and took Division rival the Chicago Cougars to task, out skating, and most importantly, out scoring them to a 3-1 final.
The MIAC Showcase is a unique venture bringing together USPHL Premier talent with top Division 3 Schools. The MIAC consists of the best NCAA Division 3 schools throughout Minnesota and is annually one of the top conferences in Division 3 college hockey.
The Ducks finished the Tournament 1-2