MOLINE, IL – Seven goals were scored between the Indy Fuel and the Quad City Mallards on Saturday. The I-74 rivals had a tame game until the third period, with only six penalties being called through the game. The second penalty wasn’t called until two minutes and 39 seconds into the final frame. The Mallards were missing three skaters and a goalie after Jack Nevins and Nolan LaPorte signed PTOs with the Iowa Wild, Adam Gilmour was recalled by Iowa, and C.J. Motte signed a PTO with the Chicago Wolves, all on Thursday.
The Fuel drew first blood, the puck finding its way past Adam Vay just 92 seconds after the opening face-off. The goal came after a defensive breakdown, the Mallards’ clearing attempt being intercepted by Kenton Helgesen. Helgesen then passed to Nick Bligh to get the goal.
The Mallards then began their relentless rampage against Eric Levine, who made 36 saves on the night. Michael Parks passed from the left high-slot to the waiting Chris Francis, who stood halfway between the dot and the goal line along the opposite boards. Levine was still watching Parks, leaving a gaping net for Francis. Sam Warning also earned an assist on this tying tally. Five and a half minutes later Josh MacDonald put the Mallards up two-to-one with help from Andrew Panzarella and Justin Kovacs. MacDonald slipped the puck just between the left post and Levine’s glove as he dove in an attempt to make the save.
Chase Lang scored his first Mallards goal – and first ECHL goal – with a bit of controversy. Lang was parked in front of the net screening Levine, about the left corner of the blue paint, when Dylan Labbe fired the puck towards the net for Lang to redirect after getting the puck from Donnie Harris. As soon as the referee signaled a goal, Levine said that Lang had been holding his stick and preventing him from moving or making the save, and therefore the goal should be waved off. From watching the replay on the video wall, I agree with Levine; his reaction when the light went off was instantaneous and persistent. In the replay, it looked like Levine had been trying to get his stick back from Lang’s hold. When I’ve tried arguing a somewhat questionable goal in the past, if I know it’s a long shot my arguing doesn’t last long (though that might just be my personality instead of a reflection on the questionable-ness), but Levine argued the entire time between the goal-light being lit and the referee signalling for the next face-off, and even when he returned to his net before the puck was dropped. But in the end, it was for naught.
At the 13 minutes and eight seconds mark of the second period, Kevin Gibson passed to Mike Wilson in the high slot. Brady Brassart was busy screening Levine but deflected the puck in behind him. The Mallards then began firing shots at the iron, the puck bouncing away from the twine, each time to the dismay of the Quad City fans.
At 18 minutes and nine seconds, the puck almost went in off the glass. A Fuel player shot the puck down towards Vay, the puck sailing high to hit the glass and bounce back towards the ice directly over the net. Fans feared something akin to the Mike Smith pants goal, but Vay caught the puck behind his back as he fell to the ice in the blue paint. Throughout the night Levine also made some incredible saves, keeping the score from being much more lopsided.
Roughly 40 seconds after Vay’s behind the back save, Gibson passed up from Gretzky’s office to Grant Arnold just to the left, who tapped it in. Arnold and Brandon Martell dropped the gloves a little under three minutes into the final frame after Arnold shoved a Fuel player into Levine, knocking the goalie down. Arnold seemed to carry the beginning of the bout, Martell not answering Arnold’s early success. Lang then scored again, this time from Brassart and Labbe, for the final goal of the game.
Zach Miskovic left the game with three and a half minutes remaining after being knocked out by a Francis hit in the left corner near Levine. Miskovic lay motionless for about 15 seconds before stirring and being helped off the ice by the Athletic Trainer and a teammate.
Seventy-five seconds later Labbe was thrown into the sin bin for cross-checking Adam Phillips several times. Phillips also cross-checked Labbe several times in what probably would have become another fight, but the scrum ended when Levine shoved Labbe to the ice from behind.
The Mallards next take on the Wheeling Nailers in Wheeling on Friday, March 10. Puck drop is set for 6:30 CST.