MOLINE, IL – The Quad City Mallards have been body-snatched, but none of the fans will complain. The other teams in the ECHL might, however, as the Mallards are now playing like a first-place team rather than the basement-dwellers of recent weeks. The night after a 6-2 victory against the Kalamazoo Wings, the Mallards defeated the Wichita Thunder 5-3 with some rapid-fire goals.
Things started out a bit rough for the Mallards, Tristan King having to sit for a four-minute high-sticking call just under 90 seconds into the game. The penalty-kill unit was strong, however, and kept the visitors off the board the entire duration. Twenty-five seconds after the penalty was over, Brayden Low opened the scoring, Jamie Tardif passing from behind the net on Joel Rumpel’s right to Low between the dots. Travis Armstrong also picked up an assist on the marker, and it would not be the last time those three would appear on the score sheet. Before the goal could even be announced, Alexander Kuqali psyched Rumpel out to send him sprawling on his stomach to leave a gaping net. Kuqali found twine from the left dot, Tardif passing from the blue-line to him, Low picking an apple. King then capitalized on a scramble in front of the net 27 seconds later, Ryan McGrath and Keegan Kolesar also having touched the puck to earn them assists.
The Mallards dominated possession in the first period, playing like they wanted to affect the playoffs even if they couldn’t play in them. The team was finishing checks and passing crisply, something apparently having sparked in them before Wednesday’s game that has carried over through the weekend.
The Mallards went onto the power-play just 37 seconds into the middle frame, and with one second remaining in the man advantage potted a goal. King passed from the left boards to Willie Raskob at the right boards to Matt Pohlkamp at the right dot, Pohlkamp sending it in. Wichita then answered back shortly after, Kevin Dufour reaching around Ivan Kulbakov’s right pad from the left to end the shut-out. Kevin Patterson and Nick Latta were credited with the assists on Dufour’s marker. Pohlkamp scored again to put himself on hat-trick watch, and also chased Rumpel from between the pipes. Pohlkamp was on the goal line to Rumpel’s right when he shot it in, Raskob and Chris Izmirlian helping. Rumpel made 19 saves on 24 shots before being replaced by Shane Starrett. Starrett was freshly returned from the Bakersfield Condors of the AHL, where he had started in his first AHL game on Friday. On Friday against the Iowa Wild, he made 10 saves on 14 shots, but he would prove to be a perfect seven-for-seven on Saturday.
In the latter half of the second period, the Mallards began to look gassed, but they continued in their winning ways. Armstrong decided he didn’t like someone’s face and earned an interference call when the opposing player went into the boards without Armstrong there to dampen the impact. The Wichita skaters on the ice all wanted a piece of the 6’4” defenseman, but Armstrong squared up with Guillaume Lepine. Lepine dropped his gloves, and after only a few punches exchanged Armstrong dropped Lepine with a body slam. Armstrong had earned two minutes for interference before the fight, making King keep him company in the sin bin.
A few minutes after the fight Wichita struck again, Dufour beating Kulbakov coast to coast. Ralph Cuddemi passed from the right dot to Dufour at the left corner of the crease, Kulbakov unable to slide over fast enough to track the rocket shot. Two minutes later Jeremy Beaudry added to Wichita’s total with help from Shaquille Merasty and Cuddemi. Cuddemi passed from just inside the blue-line on the right to Merasty at the left corner of the crease. Merasty sent a slap shot Kulbakov’s way, but the goalie blocked the shot. The rebound went directly to Beaudry at the right crease corner, and Beaudry scored on the gaping net.
Being outshot 13-4 in the third period, the Mallards bent allowing two goals but did not break. They were able to hang on and survive with the 5-3 victory.
The Mallards return to the ice on Tuesday to finish the game against the Tulsa Oilers that began on November 17. The game was postponed midway through the second period after health issues with Tulsa’s head coach Rob Murray. Opening face-off is set for 6:35, and admission is free.