MOLINE, Ill. – With the 2018 Winter Olympics having begun already, many people are reminiscing about their favorite past Olympics. Perhaps the most celebrated of the past Olympics in American hockey circles is the “Miracle on Ice”, and with that reminiscing comes remembering of quotes by the famed Herb Brooks. One quote stands out after the Quad City Mallards’ game against the visiting Fort Wayne Komets on Saturday: “The legs feed the wolf, gentlemen.”
The legs did indeed feed the wolves, as the Mallards looked akin to Team USA in the exhibition game in Norway on September 17, 1979 – where the U.S. Olympians held out for a 3-3 tie against the Norwegian National Team but were then Herbied. The Komets just plain out-skated the Mallards throughout the entire night, as well as out-checked, out-passed, and out-scored. The Komets waged a war of attrition on the Mallards, speeding up and down and side to side on the ice as they completed crisp passes and wore the home team down.
Both teams were held scoreless after 20 minutes thanks to Michael Houser and Ivan Kulbakov. Four penalties were handed out in the first 20 minutes, only one of them not being for slashing. The penalties were evenly distributed, and the teams began the second period with 25 seconds of four-on-four before the Mallards went on a 25 second power play. The Mallards were ineffective with the man advantage, and only a minute after the teams returned to even strength the red light was lit.
Kulbakov has played an aggressive game for the Mallards, and though going out of the crease to play the puck can be a useful play, sometimes it comes back to haunt the goaltender. Shortly after the Komets came off the penalty kill, Kulbakov went out of his crease to play the puck in front of the left trapezoid. While out of his crease, Justin Hodgman grabbed the puck instead. Hodgeman passed it over to Trevor Cheek, and Cheek tapped it into the empty net as Kulbakov made an attempt at a diving save. Fifty-five seconds later the Komets doubled up their lead thanks to Mason Baptista, who sent the puck in over Kulbakov’s blocker. Garrett Thompson and Jamie Schaafsma earned the assist on that tally.
It was not until almost the 16-minute mark of the second frame that the Mallards ended Houser’s shutout. Three seconds after Ryan Culkin entered the sin bin for roughing, Jake Bolton sent a wrister in from the blue line nearer the penalty boxes after Ryan McGrath had won the faceoff on the same side. The Mallards’ attempt at a comeback would be short-lived, however, as Bobby Shea scored off a shin pad. Shea sent in the shot from the blue line, and as the puck traveled in the air it bounced off a defending Mallard’s right shin pad. This deflection caused a slight redirection of the puck, giving it a higher trajectory as it sailed towards Kulbakov. The puck then hit the crossbar, bounced off of Kulbakov’s back, and into the net. Logan Nelson and Dennis Kravchenko picked up the apples on what would prove to be the game-winning goal.
Nelson decided he didn’t like Greg Amlong being behind Houser in Gretzky’s office, tripping him as play continued towards the Mallards’ zone. Amlong then gave Nelson a taste of his glove, and Nelson dropped his own. Before any more punches could be thrown, Jamie Tardif skated up behind Nelson and tackled him to put him in a headlock. All three earned roughing calls, putting Fort Wayne on the power play.
The Komets were held off the board again until just over 11 minutes of the final frame, when Baptista scored again off a deflection. Baptista was just a little before the goal line to Kulbakov’s right when he shot the puck, the puck hitting the post as Kulbakov slid to make the save. The bounce went to Kulbakov’s shoulder, which then led it into the net to light the lamp. Ryan Lowney and Thompson made their ways onto the scoresheet with the assists, and less than thirty seconds later their teammates joined them on the scoresheet. Kravchenko went on a breakaway, out-skating the defense to leave him all alone against Kulbakov. Marco Roy earned the assist on the final tally of the night.
After the game, the Mallards’ specialty Pink in the Rink sweaters were auctioned off. Over $16,000 were raised through the auction, the proceeds going to the Genesis Health Services Foundation.
The Mallards and Komets will face off again on Sunday, this time in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Puck drop is scheduled for 5 p.m. EST, with a post-game skate to follow. The Mallards will then visit the Kalamazoo Wings on Wednesday before returning home on Friday February 16th to see the Wings.