MOLINE, Ill. – The Quad City Storm and Fayetteville Marksmen engaged in a three-game series over the course of three days, and it was a battle literally and figuratively. With the Storm hanging on to seventh place in the league and a playoff berth, every point of the six available that weekend was necessary.
The Storm showed resiliency Saturday night to come back from a 2-1 deficit to start the third period and score three unanswered goals. The Marksmen are in second place in the league, just one point behind Peoria currently, so to take a victory from them in the second of three games showed an ability to play with and beat one of the best teams in the league.
The Storm have always been a physical, aggressive team. Even when that doesn’t always translate to fighting majors and game ejections, the Storm use the body well to out-muscle their opponents. Through the three-game stretch, the Storm stayed true to their physical game.
Sunday’s afternoon game concluded with two fights, and while the officials were hashing out the penalties a third altercation began in front of the benches. That third altercation was hardly a fight, however, as it was a single punch from Dakota Klecha delivered to Brian Bowen before the officials sent Klecha to the locker room with a game misconduct.
The power-play unit was good on Friday, scoring first on a 5-on-3 and then 90 seconds later scoring while up a single man. This wasn’t the case throughout the weekend, however.
The power-play unit for the Storm returned to their dismal roots from the beginning of the season, only scoring on Friday night with the extended power play. Following that, they were unable to beat either Blake Wojtala on Saturday or Brody Claeys on Sunday while on the man-advantage. While there were certainly opportunities at a few points, no bounces went their way when they did get shots on goal for those stretches.
On Saturday, Pszenyczny said that “We actually usually play our better games in our third. We actually come out with a lot more energy than I expect. We’re also keeping the forward lines short tonight, not like normal, and we should have legs for [Sunday].” That wasn’t the case for this Sunday, however. While the short lines meant that legs should have been available, what should have been and what was were two different things.
The Storm came out looking tired for Sunday’s game, and it lasted through the second period. While they had dominated the first period the prior two nights, the tables were completely flipped for Sunday. The home team was outshot throughout the contest, and the game plan seemed to have been forgotten in comparison to the efficiency with which the Marksmen played. Passing was lackluster, the team puck watched often, and appeared slow.
A fire was lit under the team to start the third, leading to an early goal to tie the game at one apiece, showing that the Storm were proficient enough to keep the game from becoming a blow-out with no small amount of help from Ryan Mulder between the pipes making some incredible saves.
It was announced at the end of the game that forward Michael Casale is retiring from hockey due to personal reasons. Sunday’s game was his last before hanging up the skates, and his last shift, though after playing agitator throughout the weekend and jawing at the Marksmen, was spent keeping combatants apart during the tussles to end the game.
“It’s going to be a tough loss for us,” said Pszenyczny. “What he did for the organization and just being a teammate and a human being in the community. We wish him all the best.”
The Storm will have a one week break before hitting the road to take on the Evansville Thunderbolts on February 28 and 29, with both games at 7:15 pm CST.
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