MOLINE, IL – The Quad City Mallards and Missouri Mavericks faced off again on Saturday for the second night in a row. The Mallards had a lot to fight for, needing only three points to clinch a playoff berth. While they couldn’t get all three against the Mavericks on Saturday, getting two would have been crucial before traveling to Indy for a Sunday matinee. The home team came out looking like they were in playoff mode, dominating the game for a full 60 minutes.
The scoring opened with a Warning shot- a Sam Warning shot, that is. After receiving the puck from Josh MacDonald and Chase Lang, Warning went a full 360 around the back of the net from the right dot before scoring. This goal came after the Mallards killed 95 seconds of five-on-three a few minutes earlier after both Jack Nevins and Mike Wilson had entered the sin bin. Nevins had attempted to fight a Maverick, but the visitor decided not to after Nevins had already dropped his gloves. The penalty kill unit for the Mallards was solid on Saturday, though there were a few times that fans began to worry.
The Mallards wasted 50 seconds of power-play time with about five minutes left in the first period after Jared VanWormer was whistled for slashing. After Adam Vay went to the bench to give his team the extra attacker, the Mallards then spent the next 50 seconds in their own zone passing the puck around and occasionally passing it very close to their empty net. A Maverick finally touched it, allowing the Mallards goaltender to return to his crease and for VanWormer to take a seat. A minute later it appeared that Nolan LaPorte had scored, but the referee waved it off after losing sight of the puck. The announcement explaining the goal being waved off stated that Josh Robinson had control of the puck before LaPorte batted it in, causing fans to boo the officiating. The Mallards continued to dominate the rest o the period, however, Lang scoring roughly two minutes later with help from Warning and Kevin Gibson. Warning carried the puck to the left goal-line before traveling back to the left dot to pass it. Lang was doing an excellent job screening Robinson and batted the puck in high from the right post.
The Mallards almost had a five-on-three power play midway through the middle frame, but a Wilson interference call decreased it to only a four-on-three power play. This didn’t stop the Mallards, as Justin Kovacs rifled the puck in from the left dot. Alexander Kuqali and Guillaume Gelinas made their ways onto the score sheet with the assists on that tally. Kovacs was along the half-boards at the blue line in front of the Mallards’ bench when he passed to Gelinas in the low slot. Gelinas returned to the line-up after missing the past two home games – Wednesday’s against the Kalamazoo Wings and Friday’s Mavericks match-up. No more penalties would be called through the game. Nine minutes later Gelinas added to the Mallards’ lead to make it four to nothing, Kovacs and Nevins assisting.
The beginning of the third period showed that Vay was in the zone, making stupendous saves the Mavericks began to throw shots on net. While the Mallards hadn’t let up the intensity, when a goalie is riding 40 minutes of no red lights behind him any shot on goal is a heart-stopper. Robinson also made some great saves during the night – the two goalies both had 32 saves – but it wasn’t enough to get the victory. Andrew Panzarella sealed the deal for the Mallards at the nine minutes and one second mark of the final frame, scoring unassisted after the puck skimmed Robinson’s right shoulder and went into the net.
Vay earned his third career shutout, and I say he deserves Sunday off when his team travels to Indianapolis to face the Fuel. If the Mallards either win in any fashion or lose in extra hockey, they will have clinched a playoff berth. Puck drop is set for 2 o’clock CST.