MOLINE, IL – In what could prove to be one of the most crucial weekends of the season for the Quad City Mallards, they play three games in three days including two in a row against the Missouri Mavericks. Fourth place Kalamazoo faced the Indy Fuel Friday and Saturday before the Mallards travel to Indy on Sunday. With the Tulsa Oilers’ loss to the Fort Wayne Komets, the Mallards’ magic number was reduced by two. After Indy’s defeat of the K-Wings on Friday, the worst the Mallards could do was stay only two points ahead in third place. But that is not what happened in Moline on St. Patrick’s Day.
The scoring started early with Michael Parks finding the back of the net just under 100 seconds after the opening face-off. Chris Francis dropped the pass back to Nolan LaPorte from the left dot, LaPorte took the puck to the front of the net. LaPorte’s shot was rebounded to Parks, who scored while Missouri netminder, Stephon Williams was sprawled on his back. A little under five minutes later, Brady Brassart added to the Mallards’ lead with help from Justin Kovacs. Kovacs swung around behind the net from right to left, passing it from the boards a little past the goal line to Brassart in the low slot. Brassart rifled it in top shelf, Williams not having a chance.
The Mallards dominated the first period, but their penalty kill unit left something to be desired. With eleven seconds left before the first intermission, Bleackley scored with help from Matt Finn and Rocco Carzo. Kovacs had been whistled for hooking at the 18:34 mark. The Mavericks came out of their locker room for the second period with a fire lit under them, but by the halfway point of the game, the Mallards had taken back the momentum. With just under five minutes left, LaPorte scored the game-winning goal. Parks won a board battle on the blue line along the Mallards’ half-boards, passing it to Francis. Francis then passed to the streaking LaPorte, who found twine. By the end of the night, Williams would make 30 saves to Quad City goaltender, Adam Vay’s 29.
With 3:35 left in the game, Vay left his crease to play the puck behind the net. He couldn’t clear it to his right due to a Mavericks player coming along the boards, so he passed it behind him. Unfortunately, there was another Mavericks player behind him, and Eric Scheid received the pass to tap the puck into the empty net unassisted. This goal was only a minor hiccup as the goalie had played well throughout the game.
With this victory, the Mallards’ magic number is now down to only five to clench a Kelly Cup playoff berth. On Saturday, the Oilers face the Toledo Walleye in Ohio, meaning that the Mallards could close the magic number to only one point if the Flock win and Tulsa loses. To clinch third in the Central Division, the Mallards need 15 points.
Early on Friday morning, the Mallards announced the signing of forward Shane Sooth, a Northern Michigan University product. Sooth had served as the Wildcats’ captain the past two seasons, and played well in his ECHL debut. His jersey made a total of $550 in the post-game auction. In all, $15,750 was raised for charity when Chicago-Cubs themed jerseys were auctioned.
Sooth, and the rest of the Mallards, take on the Mavericks again on Saturday, Puck drop is at 7:05 CST, as always for a Saturday game in Moline.