MOLINE, IL — Another exciting afternoon turned into a disappointing night when the Quad City Mallards faced the Fort Wayne Komets at the iWireless Center tonight. Young, untested talent was no match for the more experienced and game-ready players of the Indiana-based team, the home team losing 6-2. The Komets had skated in three preseason games (two against the Indy Fuel and one against the Brampton Beast), while the Mallards had none. Whether this lack of game experience spelled doom for the team or not is uncertain.
Before the puck dropped for the first time this season, the new videoboard was tested with an incredible tribute video of the past 20 years of Mallards hockey. The three Cup winning teams, the goal that won the Cup on home ice, and the stupendous maneuvers of the retro Mallards were shown, mixed with highlights of last season and this season’s headshots.
The first period looked good for the Mallards. They skated well, chased the puck, and had lots of good chances. The penalty kill unit looked good for its first time, killing off the Donnie Harris slashing call after he prevented a scoring chance. Unlike last season, the team looked as if they were playing as a team instead of individuals. If the team had played all 60 minutes like they had the first 20, it would have been possibly a Mallards victory (or at least not a blowout like it was). But, if wishes were horses beggars would ride.
Justin Kovacs scored the first goal of the season at 10:41 of the first. Sam Warning flew up the ice inline with the far faceoff dots with Kovacs. Warning passed it just past the blue line, Kovacs receiving in the slot and firing it in past Pat Nagle. Alex Petan was also credited with an assist on Kovacs’ goal.
Five minutes later, the Komets would even the score after Shawn Szydlowski rang a shot off the (goalie’s) left post and in. The shot made a resounding ding heard in the farthest reaches of the arena before it found netting. I don’t see how Adam Vay could have made that save, as it was a flukey bounce off the post that went in. Harris, who had been standing beside the net, seemed in disbelief when the goal light came on. He had been in perfect position to see it scored, but I won’t dispute what the goal judge said.
The Komets took the lead early in the sandwich period, former Mallard Mason Baptista earning an assist on Gabriel Beaupre‘s powerplay goal. Brady Vail also earned an assist on that goal. The Mallards were able to tie the game after going on the powerplay from a Garrett Thompson slashing call 25 seconds earlier.
Mike Monfredo, wearing an “A”, scored from the far faceoff circle with help from Alex Gudbranson and Nathan Todd. The fact that he helped with a powerplay goal doesn’t make up for the fact that at least one of the goals was scored because of a defensive lapse that may or may not have been on his part. Before the goal was finished being announced, the Komets began to strike back.
In fifteen minutes, the Komets had scored three times; at the end of the period they had outshot the Mallards 23-14 to lead 5-2.
With just over a minute left to play in the second period, Nolan LaPorte and Kyle Thomas dropped the gloves in front of the penalty boxes. LaPorte began the fight and finished it too, throwing Thomas to the ice in short order.
Coach Terry Ruskowski decided to give CJ Motte a chance to show him what he’s got in a real game setting, taking Vay out after 40 minutes of play. The Komets toned down their offense during the last period, only putting five shots on goal the entire twenty minutes. One puck slipped by Motte early in the period, coming off the stick of Jamie Schaafsma.
Tensions boiled over during the final period of play, more fights and angry talking ensuing. Jack Nevins and Taylor Crunk fought in front of the Komets’ bench after Nevins took offense at one of the hits immediately preceding the altercation. Monfredo and Will Weber talked in front of the bench during the fight, each holding the other tightly.
Brent Tate, who had played two playoff games for the Flock last season, attempted to fight LaPorte. However, LaPorte wanted no part of that and refused to drop his gloves. He yelled at the ref while Tate threw punches, and then continued yelling in the penalty box, this time at Tate. Tate seemed just as inclined to yell at LaPorte. LaPorte was given a two minute unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to even out Tate’s instigating penalty. Tate also gave the Mallards a five minute powerplay, that was ineffective and resulted in only one shot on goal.
At the end of the night, it was proven that preseason games are a benefit to a team. The Mallards, though great players, need more experience to gel and improve their puck possession.
Before the game, the Mallards named Chris Francis captain, giving Monfredo and Petan the “A”s.
The Mallards and the Komets face off again tonight in Fort Wayne at 7:30 EST.