MOLINE, IL – A hungry team and a tired team met in Moline on Sunday, and a close game resulted. The Wichita Thunder came in having lost nine of their last ten games, while the Mallards had just returned to Moline in the wee hours of the morning from Kalamazoo after finishing their home-and-home series from Friday and Saturday. Sunday was the first time this season that Wichita and Quad City met, but the rivalry of the old CHL days hadn’t abated.
The two teams appeared to play pretty equal for the first ten minutes, as the Mallards were unable to apply a prolonged offensive effort until roughly eight minutes into the game. The puck would enter the Thunder zone and then almost immediately be cleared to the neutral zone, time and time again. Guillaume Gelinas then put the Mallards on the board approximately three minutes after this, deflecting Justin Kovacs‘ pass in from Drew Owsley‘s right. Brady Brassart also earned an assist on this tally. Thirty seconds later Grant Arnold and James Melindy dropped the gloves between the Wichita dots. Both got good hits in, but Melindy seemed to come out on the better end of that bout by a fair margin.
Kovacs scored a goal of his own five and a half minutes later, Darryl Lloyd sitting in the box for high-sticking. Kovacs passed the puck from the left dot to Josh MacDonald, who was in the left goalie no-fly zone. Kovacs skated to the left to take the pass back from MacDonald, sending it into the net. Originally this goal was credited to Adam Gilmour, but it was corrected immediately following the end of the period. Gelinas earned the second assist on the tally.
Andrew Panzarella checked Ian Lowe hard into the halfboards of the visitors’ bench just over a minute into the second frame, and Melindy didn’t like that one bit. Melindy and Panzarella fought, Melindy winning that bout handily with no contest, and he was escorted off the ice momentarily before returning. Melindy earned two minutes for instigating the bout, giving the Mallards a power-play that they’d capitalize on shortly.
Ninety seconds later Chris Francis made it a three-nothing game after tapping in Alexander Kuqali‘s shot. A scrum developed in front of the net after the shot, and in the confusion, Francis was able to slide the puck between Owsley’s foot and the right post. But this was when things began to go south for the Flock.
The Mallards appeared to ease off after gaining the three-goal lead, and it was this that nearly cost them the game. The Thunder’s first goal came off a defensive lapse, Maxime St-Cyr finding twine with the help of Vincent Dunn and Macoy Erkamps. Melindy then scored an unassisted goal at the 10 minutes and 27 seconds mark when C.J. Motte was without a stick after having it knocked from his hands.
It appeared that Michael Parks had given his team a two-goal lead as the puck bounced from post to post, but after consulting with the goal judge the referee deemed it a no-goal. The video had seemed to show the puck crossing the line, but as it was from a camera in front of the goal line it wasn’t the best angle to tell for certain. Andy Abeyta got a great picture from a suite above the net, showing the puck on the outside of the net – barely.
A minute later Melindy ran Motte behind the net when the goaltender went out to play the puck. Melindy was given two minutes for goalie interference, while Motte was given two minutes for embellishing, somehow. During these coincidental minors, the Thunder tied the game with a goal from Lloyd. Brandon Carlson and Louick Marcotte made their ways onto the scoresheet with the assists on the goal.
Arnold put the Mallards back on top with help from Francis and Parks at four minutes and 44 seconds of the final frame. Three minutes later Blake Tatchell tied the score back up, his shot going top shelf over Motte. St-Cyr and Marcotte were credited with the assists on Tatchell’s tally.
Panzarella scored the game-winning goal unassisted, a wonder of a shot as he was almost to the goal line in line with the dot to Owsley’s left. Gilmour finally got back the goal that was credited to Kovacs late in the first period, this time being a shortie rather than a power-play goal. Owsley had gone to the bench for the extra attacker eight seconds prior, making Gilmour’s first ECHL goal a rare shorthanded empty-netter.
The Mallards next take the ice on Wednesday at the iWireless Center against the Kalamazoo Wings. Puck drop is scheduled for the special Wednesday time of 6:35 CST.