MOLINE, Ill. – The Quad City Mallards were seeking their fifth straight win on Friday when the Indy Fuel came to town, donning hot pink sweaters for Pink in the Rink. Pink in the Rink is a part of the Hockey Fights Cancer initiative, vowing to fight back against cancer and remember those who had lost their battle and those who had won. As part of Pink in the Rink, fans were invited to paint names on the ice in pink-colored paint for the skaters to skate over on Friday and Saturday. The sweaters will be auctioned after the game on Saturday, with proceeds going to the Genesis Health Systems Foundation. The Mallards will have to start a new streak on Saturday, as the Fuel weren’t fans of the pink sweaters.
The Mallards suffered bad bounces the entire game, finding the wrong side of the iron or the puck deflecting away from the net off a screening stick rather than towards. The Mallards played well but the Fuel, particularly goaltender Matt Tomkins, had the bounces and played better.
The beginning of the game saw lots of back and forth action between the two teams, neither one having possession for very long. A little less than four minutes into the game, Jack Burton took a slashing call to prevent the puck going past Tomkins, recently returned from the Rockford IceHogs. There was a scramble in front of Tomkins, the puck bouncing off his pads and his stick and other players sticks as he was down in the butterfly, giving the Mallards a good opportunity to get on the scoreboard first. Burton’s penalty caused a whistle to stop play, breaking up the momentum the Mallards had gained.
A few minutes later Tristan King juggled the puck one too many times while streaking down the ice on Tomkins’ left, being unable to get a shot off from the corner of the crease. Josh Shalla gave the Fuel the first goal of the game just over 12 minutes into the opening frame when he, Ryan Rupert, and Matt Rupert were in on a three-on-two rush. The puck traveled from right to left of C.J. Motte, Motte sprawling to try to make the save. The puck sailed in over his left shoulder after Shalla sent a one-timer in, and the officials had to discuss before signaling that it was indeed a good goal.
Darian Dziurzynski had an uncontested breakaway early in the second period, but Motte stone-walled him to keep the game to a single goal. A goalie’s favorite sound – the puck hitting iron – echoed throughout the second period as the Mallards were unable to hit the inside of the posts. Matt Pohlkamp, who had drawn iron in the second period, was able to put the Mallards on the board at just over the four minute mark of the final frame. Pohlkamp picked up the rebound that came off the end boards, sending the puck in to meet twine. Triston Grant and Keegan Kolesar were credited with the apples on what would prove to be the lone tally for the Mallards.
Nineteen seconds after Pohlkamp’s marker, Matt Rupert fired in a shot to beat Motte on the left side. His brother had sent the puck in from the blue line to Motte’s right, Shalla picking up the secondary assist on the game-winning goal. The game was not over, however, as eight minutes later the Fuel scored off a faceoff to ensure a victory – provided the Mallards didn’t mount a comeback. The faceoff was to Motte’s right, and after Indy won the faceoff the puck was bouncing around every which way but out of the zone. Motte went down to cover but the puck took an awkward path, bouncing to Stephen Collins. Collins couldn’t ignore the gaping net, and his goal was assisted by Dziurzynski and Michael Neal. The Fuel then capitalized on their second power play of the game, cementing the win with a goal by Ryan Rupert. Rupert sent a rocket in over Motte’s shoulder after getting the puck from Anthony Cortese, and that was how the game ended.
Tomkins showed why he was with Rockford until Friday morning, turning away 45 of 46 shots. The bounces went Tomkins’ way as well, which is something a goaltender will never complain about. Motte faced 33 shots.
The Mallards will try to start a new winning streak on Saturday when they complete the Pink in the Rink weekend against the Fort Wayne Komets. Puck drop is set for 7:05 CST, and don’t forget to stick around after the game to bid on the one-of-a-kind hot pink Mallards sweaters. The Mallards are also offering discount codes to use on TicketMaster for Saturday’s game; $5 of every ticket sold using the codes found on their Facebook page.