MOLINE, ILL – The Quad City Mallards have extended their losing streak, bringing the total up to four games after losing their contest against the Utah Grizzlies on Wednesday 5-2. After losing three games in three days last week to the Indy Fuel, the Mallards sought to begin their four games in five days weekend with a win. The Grizzlies, however, had a different idea as they looked to make their win streak six games.
Utah’s first scoring chance came just under two minutes into the game when Brad Navin went on a breakaway along the half boards. Kyle Follmer was about to carry the puck across the blue line into the Grizzlies’ zone but lost it to Navin, who was then unable to release the shot. Perhaps the best scoring chance for the Mallards early on was a Willie Raskob rebound which went to Brayden Low. Raskob shot from the left, the puck bouncing off the end board and out to Low on the opposite side. Joel Rumpel was out of position, but Low could not get his stick down to tap in the skittering puck.
Navin went on to score the game’s opening goal just a few seconds before the midway point of the first period, firing a one-timer in from the inside edge of the right circle. Austin Ortega earned the primary assist after passing the puck from the other side of the circle, Sam Windle with the other apple. Three minutes later the Mallards struck back with Greg Amlong firing in a one-timer of his own. Ryan McGrath was in the left trapezoid behind Rumpel when he got the puck from Low, sending it up to Amlong at the blue line from the circle.
The Mallards’ celebration lasted only a few short minutes, however, as Ryan Walters scored his first goal of the night. Walters beat Ivan Kulbakov on the glove side, sending the puck to meet twine from the slot after cutting across from the left.
Roughly three minutes into the sandwich stanza Ortega scored what would prove to be the game-winning goal. He grabbed the puck off the boards to Kulbakov’s left at the blue line before streaking in. The puck slid in five-hole from the near edge of the left dot after Tristan King failed to back-check. Kyle Novak then scored his first professional goal a minute later when he came into the Grizzlies’ zone and fired the puck from the edge of the left circle. The puck appeared to deflect off James Melindy’s stick and into the net.
The visitors dominated the second period much as they had done in the first frame. The most noticeable difference between the two teams was the Mallards’ lack of poke-checking. Throughout the season, the Mallards blue-liners have avoided using their stick in any way to break up a rush. Instead, they will skate backwards while attempting to block the shot using either their stick or their body. While blocking a shot with the body is good, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. The Mallards will skate backwards with no poke-checking, allow a goal and repeat the cycle.
Utah regained its two goal lead roughly four minutes into the third period when Ryan Misiak went on a breakaway to score. Matt Pohlkamp had forgotten the puck at the blue line as he crossed into the Grizzlies’ defensive zone, and Misiak sprung on the puck. Misiak then squeezed the puck in between Kulbakov’s right elbow and body.
Walters scored his second goal of the night with 61 seconds remaining while Melindy sat in the box for high-sticking. Kulbakov had gone to the bench to give the Mallards the extra attacker, meaning that Walter’s second goal was not only an empty net goal but also a short-handed tally.
The Mallards and Grizzlies will rematch on Friday at the TaxSlayer Center at 7:05 CST. It is another $2 Hot Dog and $2 Beer Night presented by 97X, as well as a MetroLINK College Night, where Augustana College students can ride the metro bus to the game for free simply by showing their student ID.
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