WHEELING, WV – The Quad City Mallards and Wheeling Nailers faced off again on Saturday to finish out their weekend set in the Wheel. The Mallards entered the contest hoping to reduce their magic number for clinching a playoff berth to 10. With the Tulsa Oilers idle, the Mallards stood to gain a lot of ground in the standings. A natural hat-trick was scored within 57 seconds in the second period, making the hats rain and some fans question a victory.
A little more than six minutes into the contest, Justin Kovacs dropped the puck to Josh MacDonald at center ice before being checked by three Nailers. MacDonald skated down through the middle and backhanded the puck to Grant Arnold, who shot from the right dot and found twine over Doug Carr’s glove. Then with 55 seconds remaining in the period, Cody Wydo knotted the game after redirecting Nick Sorkin’s shot. Wydo was in the center between the two dots when Sorkin shot from the top of the left circle; Gage Quinney earned an assist on that tally as well. The Nailers had 43 seconds remaining on the power-play when they scored, as Guillaume Gelinas had gone to the box for tripping with 2:12 remaining in the period.
Six seconds after Sam Warning exited the box from a goaltender interference call, Johnny Daniels scored his first of the night to give the home team their first lead of the series. Tyler Currier, from the top of the left dot, took a shot on Adam Vay. Daniels was screening in front and redirected the puck into the twine behind his back. Garrett Meurs was also credited with an assist on Daniels’ first goal. Thirty-six seconds later Daniels scored again, this time from Wydo and Sorkin. From just past the goal line on Vay’s left, Daniels passed to Wydo. Wydo immediately gave it back to Daniels, who shot it over Vay’s glove for the three-to-one lead. The Mallards took their time-out then, allowing both lines on the ice to catch their breaths and stay on for the next face-off and shift. Daniels then scored his final goal of the night 21 seconds later, Wydo and Michael Webster with the apples. The public address announcer had just finished announcing Daniels’ second goal when Wydo served a cross ice pass from the left circle to the right circle to the streaking Daniels. The Nailers fans probably considered it a favor for the hat-trick to be scored on Saturday, as a select number of fans received a camouflage hat for Duck Dynasty Night and Country Weekend. This was not the fastest hat-trick in ECHL history, however; that honor belongs to Darren Schwartz of the Wheeling Thunderbirds on December 20, 1992. Schwartz scored three goals in 30 seconds that night against the Roanoke Valley Rampage; the final score that night was 11-3.
Warning then cut the Nailers’ lead by one 97 seconds later, Kovacs and Andrew Panzarella assisting. Panzarella intercepted the puck along the half-boards near center ice, dumping it into the right trapezoid where Kovacs picked it up. Kovacs passed it back to Warning, who gave it to Kovacs behind the net, who then gave it back to Warning again, who scored. Chris Francis then put the Mallards within one marker when he scored at the 17:05 mark of the middle frame. Michael Parks and Nolan LaPorte picked up the helpers on that tally, after LaPorte tried passing to Parks from just before the Mallards’ blue line. Parks immediately passed it behind his back to Francis as the Mallards’ captain came up the ice. Francis shot from the left dot to find twine and give Mallards fans hope of a come-back.
Currier then added to Wheeling’s lead with just over six minutes remaining in the contest, with Jordan Kwas and Brett Stern assisting. Currier scored from the low slot after picking up Kwas’ rebound. Kovacs tried continuing a Mallards come-back with a minute and 48 seconds left in the game, but it was for naught. Mike Wilson and Francis earned the assists on Kovacs’ goal, as Wilson was originally credited with the goal from the high slot after taking the pass from Francis. After review, the officials deemed that Kovacs had redirected the puck into the net. Currier scored his second of the night with 21 seconds left on the clock, Kevin Schulze and Christian Hilbrich assisting on the empty net tally.
The Mallards face the Kalamazoo Wings in their final meeting of the season this Wednesday night, faceoff set for 6:30 pm. The Wings currently sit only three points behind QC after losing 6-1 against the Toledo Walleye on Saturday. The Fort Wayne Komets are 10 points ahead of the Mallards after their 3-2 shoot-out win against their in-state rivals the Indy Fuel.