MOLINE, IL – The Quad City Mallards and Kalamazoo Wings faced off in another key divisional match-up for the third time in a week. After losing both games of the home-and-home series, the Mallards sought to increase their lead from six points to eight points for the third playoff spot in the Central Division. With only 41 days until the beginning of the Kelly Cup Playoffs, every point counts. And, well, the Mallards seemed to take that literally on Wednesday night, the game going to overtime to be settled.
During the first period, the Mallards mostly dominated. They had a few rough spots, but especially during the opening minutes, the team seemed to play like a well-oiled machine. But if you believe in jinxes, as soon as that thought crossed my mind – and perhaps that of the Mallards’, as well – the Mallards of old reared their head for a time. A power play for the Mallards turned into a four-on-four situation when a Mallard appeared to pass directly to an opposing player who then went on a breakaway. To prevent the scoring chance, Jack Nevins had to slash the player so that the Kwings eventually had 29 seconds of a man-advantage after Eric Kattelus left the box for tripping.
Though the Mallards were peppering Nick Riopel with shots, he proved why he was the most recent ECHL Goalie of the Week. He made a diving save roughly seven minutes into the game, preventing the Mallards from taking the lead on a gaping net after he left the blue-paint to play the puck. C.J. Motte also made some incredible saves during the game, as the ECHL All-Star second goalie is prone to do.
The scoreless tie was finally broken with exactly two minutes remaining in the opening frame, Grant Arnold getting help from Justin Kovacs and Brady Brassart. Brassart passed from the Mallards’ right dot to Kovacs at center ice along the half-boards. Kovacs then passed to the streaking Arnold, who crashed the net to get the goal. But 40 seconds later Peter Schneider tied the game after outskating both defensemen in their own zone. Cameron Darcy had the lone assist on the goal that went fivehole from the blueline.
The Mallards had their lone successful powerplay of the night just over halfway through the middle frame after Scott Henegar was called for hugging – I mean holding – Kovacs behind Riopel. Kovacs passed to Brassart from the left trapezoid to the center between the dots, where Brassart one-timed it to Josh MacDonald, who got the goal. Sixteen seconds later Lane Scheidl scored unassisted after winning the face-off to Motte’s right.
The third period was uneventful save for Scheidl’s second goal that wasn’t. The puck sailed right into the net, the goal light lit up, but the referee waved the goal off for a high-stick on the play.
Tanner Sorenson netted the game-winning goal just 70 seconds into the extra period, Darcy and Blake Kessel earning the apples on that tally.
With this loss, the Mallards now sit only five points ahead of Kalamazoo for third place in the division. The magic number for the Mallards is now 19; Mallards fans now need to cheer for whatever teams face the Tulsa Oilers the next 41 days until the Mallards clinch a play-off berth. The Mallards face the Indy Fuel in Moline on Saturday, with puck drop set for 7:05 CST.