In town since Labor Day Weekend, the newest Dells Ducks team will take flight on Friday night, beginning the 2017-18 United States Premier Hockey League season at the Poppy Waterman Ice Arena in Lake Delton.
Once again, there are some changes in the league this season, and there are changes with the Ducks as well, including a new man at the helm.
While returners have been key in keeping the Ducks at the top of the heap for the past five seasons, this time around, the Ducks have just one member of last season’s team – 20-year-old goaltender Zander Zafiro from the Chicago area — back for the 2017-18 campaign.
New Ducks head coach Jeff Worlton, a native of Rochester, Minnesota, who, like previous head coach Bill Zaniboni, enjoyed a short career in the professional minor leagues, before turning his focus on coaching. He has spent time as an assistant coach at Marian College in Fond du Lac, and he has been both an assistant and head coach at the Tier 2 junior levels, most recently coaching the Kenai River Brown Bears of the NAHL in Alaska.
This summer Worlton scoured showcase tournaments and tryouts across the country, and has put together a group that includes a half dozen players born in 1997, who are in their final year of eligibility for junior hockey, along with a mix of younger players as well.
And while this Ducks team is young, especially compared to previous teams, Worlton is confident the players can be molded into something good. the coach does caution that patience will be a key this season, and it might take awhile for the team to hit its stride.
The schedule has been good to the Ducks as the team will faceoff both Friday and Saturday against the Minnesota Blue Ox, which is an expansion team in the USPHL with Bruce Boudreau, head coach of the Minnesota Wild as a primary owner.
Game time on both nights is 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $6 for adults, $5 for seniors and $3 for students and children. All youth hockey players are granted free admission to the game.
The Ducks will also walk together in the Wo-Zha-Wa Days parade on Sunday.
The Ducks will not be in action the following weekend, but will up the month with a single game against the Steele County Blades at Owatonna, Minnesota on Sept. 30.
The Ducks are looking for some volunteers to help at games, and while there is no pay, season tickets and some other perks may be offered for some of the volunteer positions. For information, contact assistant general manager, Jim den Hollander at email@example.com.