Ducks and Ice Hawks to battle for Bush Cup

Through the 42 game regular season there was virtually no separation between the Dells Ducks and Rochester Ice Hawks of the Minnesota Junior Hockey League.

Six playoff games later nothing has changed.

The Ducks and Ice Hawks sat in a virtual deadlock atop the Minnesota Division standings even in points, wins, losses, even overtime losses. Check their records head to head and they matched 3 wins apiece, both taking two and home and one on the road.

The tie for top spot and the Regular Season Championship trophy game down to total score in those six head-to-head meetings and the Ducks came out on top — barely — holding a 20-19 edge overall.

Both teams have added another six wins in the post season as the Ducks dispatched of the Ironwood Fighting Yoopers and Forest Lake Lakers in four straight games before crossing over to take out Central Division second seed Wooster Oilers in two straight as well. Meanwhile the Ice Hawks dispatched the Minnesota Owls and Hudson Crusaders before knocking Central Division champion Illiana Blackbirds last weekend.

Following is a quick look at last weekend’s series as the two rivals look to renew acquaintances Friday night at 7:30 p.m. at the Poppy Waterman Ice Arena in Lake Delton.

Friday March 13 — Oilers 1 at Ducks 5

Coming off of an upset sweep win the previous weekend at Wisconsin Rapids, the Oilers found themselves back on the road headed to Wisconsin — this time to the Dells area for their Best-of-Three Final Four series.

Crosby Steen, a trade deadline pickup from Breezy Point of the NA3HL moved up from the point to notch the first of the game at the 8:13 mark of the first period and the Ducks doubled its margin with the first of a pair from Brady Hefner with a little more than five minutes to play in the opening period. Both goals came on Ducks powerplays.

The Ducks doubled the margin through the first half of the second with two more extra strength markers — Brandon Wolfe, another pick up at the deadline and Hefner’s second doing the damage.

Remington Reynolds knocked in a rebound to get the Oilers on the board with 5:10 left in the second, but Ducks’ captain Ian Wood restored the margin with the team’s first even strength tally on a feed from Hefner at the 8:44 mark of the third.

The Ducks held a 45-32 edge in shots and Sandro Aeschlimann handled 31 of 32 in goal for the Ducks.

Friday March 13 — Ice Hawks 4 at Blackbirds 2

The Rochester squad hit the road to Indiana for its opener and broke open a 2-2 game with a pair of goals in the game’s final five minutes.

Teams played through a scoreless first period as Rochester’s Sam Nelson and Larry Pezutto of the Blackbirds stopping everything fired their way.

It was Jamie Blair drawing first blood for the visitors 6:30 into the second period and Drew Cleereman doubled the lead just over a minute later.

Again a goal came just over minute later but this time it was Illiana’s Jeremy Judis pulling the trigger. Rochester was able to carry that cushion into the third, but Joe Starcivich evened it up at the 3:30 mark, setting the stage for the late goals from Vinnie Susi and Nik Marconcinni that gave the road team a 1-0 edge in games.

Saturday March 14 — Blackbirds 3 at Ice Hawks 6

The Blackbirds arrived in Rochester desperate for a win on Saturday but found their job even tougher when Trevor Sabo connected for the lone goal of the first period to put the home side up 1-0.

Dan Trageser added another 75 seconds into the second but Illiana came alive with Jordan Keller’s goal just before the halfway mark of the period.

Teams traded goals through the second half of the period; Alec Martin restoring the Ice Hawks’ two goal cushion with 6:37 to play and Curtis Artuso scoring for the Blackbirds 2:33 later.

Trageser’s second of the night gave the Ice Hawks a little room early in a crazy third period and Rochester was all but celebrating after goals from Sabo and Cleereman had them up 6-2 with 7:25 to go.

Nathan Aloisio scored the final goal for Illiana about a minute later but it wasn’t nearly enough.

Teams battled hard and it showed as they totaled 200 penalty minutes, a lion’s share going to Illiana with 34 minutes coming out of one incident about halfway through the final period.

With the win, the Ice Hawks advanced to the Bush Cup championship series with the Blackbirds going to the playoff sidelines.

Saturday — Oilers 2 at Ducks 3 (ot)

The Oilers showed the previous weekend how it could rally back from deficits as it charged back from down two or three goals routinely in its series against Wisconsin Rapids.

Playing on the road as the home team in the Dells on Saturday the Oilers threatened to do that again, rallying back from down 2-0 to ultimately force the overtime period.

Ducks went up with a first period goal by Marcus Cassidy and another from Ian Wood early in the second before Jeffrey Skinner scored a beauty for the Oilers, weaving through the Ducks players before depositing it in the goal.

Rubin Chavarria completed the comeback in the third period forcing the overtime period but it was Connor Rickabus getting his stick on a point shot by Mike Sullivan to redirect the puck past Furber and bring a quick end to the series.

After Friday’s game in the Dells, the two finalists will make the trip to Rochester for Saturday. Every series so far has been wrapped up in the two game minimum, but if a third is needed this time around, it will be played back in the Dells on Sunday afternoon.





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