MOLINE, ILL – The Quad City Mallards and Toledo Walleye faced off for both the penultimate time this season and ever. The day after announcing the team would be ceasing operations at the end of the season on April 7th, the Mallards began the final 11 games of their ECHL history. Five home games remained before Wednesday’s contest, with two of them being against the Walleye.
In the first period the Mallards looked to be the lesser team, which should not be surprising due to the fact that the Illinois-based team is dead dead in both the Central Division and the league. Toledo, in contrast, has clinched a playoff spot and rests in first place in the Central. The home team was outskated and outshot during the first 20 minutes, going down 2-0 after goals by Kyle Bonis and A.J. Jenks.
The first Toledo goal came just over 90 seconds after the game began with Bonis firing the puck in top shelf from the left corner of the crease. Recently returned from the AHL’s Stockton Heat, C.J. Motte had a terrific save about midway through the period when he went out of his crease to attempt to play the puck near the boards; the defensemen in black helped out as well with the stop.
Shortly after that, however, Jenks added to the lead. After much scrambling in front of the net and many saves by Motte, Jenks rifled the puck in top shelf to double up the Toledo lead. Ryan Obuchowski assisted on both of the first period goals. After one period, Toledo had seven more shots on goal than the Mallards, sending 20 shots Motte’s way.
A fire was lit under the Mallards during the first intermission as they came out of the locker room looking like a different team. Their play was more aggressive, their passing was crisper and their skating faster. It took almost eight minutes for the Mallards to end Pat Nagle’s shutout in the second frame, with Ryan McGrath finding twine while the Mallards were on the power play. Quentin Shore was at the right corner at the goal line when he passed it up to Jamie Tardif in front of the net. Tardif then backhanded it to McGrath cross ice and he lit the lamp.
Gergo Nagy and Shore had a stupendous scoring opportunity at 12:59 after Nagy came out of the box. Nagy went on the breakaway, dropping the puck between the dots to Shore who was following close behind. Shore’s shot went high, however, and McGrath’s marker was the only one to be scored in the middle frame.
Halfway through the final frame Toledo scored again, with Tyler Barnes shooting the puck into the gaping net while Motte was down on his left side.
28 seconds after Toledo once more took a two goal lead the Mallards struck back, as this time it was Chris Izmirlian netting his third goal of the season. Izmirlian’s goal would stand as the final marker of the game, and the Walleye skated off with the 3-2 victory as the Mallards were unable to tie.
The Mallards and Walleye looked like to be more evenly matched in the second and third periods compared to the opening frame, and Quad City eventually took the lead in shots on goal 44-39. Both teams took three penalties apiece, but the Mallards were the only team to capitalize on the man advantage.
With this loss the Mallards have been officially eliminated from the playoffs, the first time in five seasons. The Mallards had previously made the playoffs in their the final two seasons in the CHL and their three previous seasons in the ECHL.
The Mallards and Walleye will finish up their season-long series and the four game home-and-home series on Friday at 7:05 at the TaxSlayer Center. Friday’s contest is another $2 Hot Dog/$2 Beer Night presented by 97X, as well as a Metro Night presented by Metrolink.
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