BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — With a four-goal explosion in the third period Friday, the Dells Ducks junior hockey team stands one victory away from the championship of the Minnesota Junior Hockey League’s Minnesota Division.
And the Ducks will have a chance to claim that victory Sunday evening at Poppy Waterman Ice Arena in Lake Delton.
The Ducks broke a 2-2 tie with four goals in the third period to beat the regular-season division-champion Twin Cities Northern Lights, 6-3, in the first game of the best-of-three division final.
Game Two is set for 5:30 p.m. Sunday at Poppy Waterman. If necessary, a third game will take place in Bloomington on Tuesday night.
During the MnJHL regular season, the Northern Lights went 45-4 with one overtime loss and beat the Ducks in five of the teams’ six meetings. The Ducks went 29-19 in the regular season — but caught fire in the playoffs, sweeping Edina in the first round and opening eyes around the league with a second-round sweep of the Rochester Ice Hawks, who went 42-5 with one overtime loss and two shutout losses during the regular season.
Perhaps the biggest star of the night Friday was Ducks goaltender John Sellie Hanson. He was peppered with 37 shots and turned back 34, including 11 of 12 shots in the decisive third period.
Jacob Stima scored the first goal of the third period, taking an assist from Yari Neitenbach 2 minutes 54 seconds into the period. The Northern Lights tied the score on a goal from Jace Childs at 4:25, but Stima put the Ducks ahead for keeps with an unassisted goal at 10:56.
Joey Bower made it 5-3 with a score at 15:24, on assists from Ian Harris and Gavin Porter, and Nick Albergo added an empty-net goal at 18:40.
Harris scored the Ducks’ first goal at 11:26 of the first period, on assists from Porter and Bower. After the Northern Lights took a 2-1 lead on goals by Eric Shand and Dylan Blankenship, Layne Martin evened the score with a goal at 15:14 of the second period, with assists credited to Brett Johnson and Austin Zima.
Northern Lights goalie Isaak Tjaden turned back 13 of the Ducks’ 18 shots. The game saw only two penalties, both of them two-minute minors against the Ducks in the first period.
The fact that the Ducks’ only penalty led to a Twin Cities power-play goal — and that the Ducks didn’t have another penalty the rest of the way — may have had an influence on how the Ducks were able to stick around until they got hot in the third period.
In the first game of the Great Lakes Division finals, the Pleasant Prairie-based Wisconsin Rampage beat the Illiana Blackbirds, 5-4. The winner of that series will take on the winner of the Ducks-Northern Lights series next week for the overall MnJHL championship and a spot in the eight-team Junior Nationals later this month in Rochester, Minn.
MnJHL DIVISION FINAL
(Best of three)
DELLS DUCKS 6,
TWIN CITIES NORTHERN LIGHTS 3
Dells Ducks 1 1 4 — 6
Twin Cities 1 1 1 — 3
First period — 1, DD: Ian Harris (Gavin Porter, Joey Bower), 11:26; 2, TC: Eric Shand (John Regnart, Gleb Kulikov), 18:59 (power play). Second period — 3, TC: Dylan Blankenship (Andrew Scofield, Matt Pietrzykowski); 4, DD: Layne Martin (Brett Johnson, Austin Zima), 15:14. Third period — 5, DD: Jacob Stima (Yari Neitenbach), 2:54; 6, TC: Jace Childs (Carter Purdy, Eric Shand), 4:25; 7, DD: Stima, 10:56; 8, DD: Bower (Harris, Porter), 15:24; 9, DD: Nick Albergo, 18:40 (empty net).
Shots — DD 19, TC 37. Saves — DD: John Sellie-Hanson 34; TC: Isaak Tjaden 13. Penalties — DD 2-4:00; TC 0.