The Dells Ducks looked to build some momentum from a win in their final game at the Chicago Showcase the previous weekend, but instead came up short in their two most lopsided United States Premier Hockey League (USPHL) defeats of the season so far at Ironwood, Michigan Saturday and Sun afternoons.
The host Fighting Yoopers pulled out a 7-3 win in the opener on Saturday and then clinched the season series with a 7-1 decision in the Sunday contest. The same two teams squared off at the Poppy Waterman Ice Arena earlier this month, both teams winning once.
The losses dropped the Ducks to 2-8-1 through its first 11 games of the season and they remain in eighth place in the nine-team USPHL Midwest-West Division, ahead of only the 1-8-2 Wisconsin Muskies, an expansion team out of Spooner.
Ironically, while goaltending was the strong point for the team in earlier games, the Ducks held the edge shots in both games in Ironwood.
On Saturday, the Ducks battled back from a 2-0 first period deficit with a pair pf goals early in the second, but trailed 3-2 heading to the final frame and two goals in the opening 99 seconds had the home team in control.
When teams met in Lake Delton earlier in the season, the Ducks rebounded from an opening night defeat with an impressive 6-3 win the following day. They weren’t able to match that feat this time around as once again the home side used a big third period to turn a close game into a blowout.
YOOPERS 7, DUCKS 3
Caleb Griffin has been dominant for the Yoopers this season the Ducks could do little to slow him down on the weekend.
The 19-year-old forward grabbed a goal and four assists in leading the Yoopers to the win Saturday while linemate Zach Earl also picked up five points with three goals and a couple of assists.
The Ducks were also led by its offensive leader, Stone Stelzl, firing his team-leading sixth goal of the season. Wyatt Mikkelson collected his third goal and seventh point while Alec Scarsella also scored his third goal for the Ducks this season.
Jacob Soderstrom, the team’s lone import from Sweden, set up two of the goals and other helpers came from Billy Nichol and Giovani Mueller.
The Ducks held a 13-8 edge in shots through the opening period but trailed 2-0, rallying back with a 2-1 edge in scoring and 11-9 edge in shots in the second frame.
After the two quick goals for the Yoopers, Mikkelson’s goal got the Ducks back to within a pair early in the period, but the Ducks never hit the mesh again and the home team added two more before the 10-minute mark to put the game away.
Leonardo Feneley stopped 32 of 35 shots to pick up the win in goal and Zander Zafiro turned aside 17 shots in goal for the Ducks.
YOOPERS 7, DUCKS 1
Sunday’s contest was similar, with the Ducks within striking distance after the first period, trailing 2-1 and the second period being scoreless.
The Yoopers hit the mesh 8:13 into the third and never stopped after that, piling on four more to turn this one into a lopsided win.
Earl added another goal and three assists while Griffin notched the hat trick.
Mikkelson collected the lone Ducks’ goal late in the opening period on a feed from Colton Maynard.
The Ducks fired 49 shots at Julius Huset, who stopped all but one. Corbin Moore and Zafiro both took a turn in goal in this one, combining on a 34 save effort.
The Ducks will look to break back into the win column Friday night when they begin a stretch of five straight on home ice.
The 9-3-0 Minnesota Moose (formerly Blaine Energy) will pay a visit on Friday and Saturday with 7:30 p.m. games at the Poppy Waterman Ice Arena on both nights.
The following weekend, the Ducks will also play on home ice, entertaining the Wisconsin Muskies in games Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m and wrapping up on Sunday afternoon with the Fourth Annual Dells Ducks Tailgate put on by Monk’s Bar an Grill. The event, featuring Monk’s famous Sliders, will raise funds for both the Dells Ducks and the South Central Cyclones Youth Hockey organization.