MOLINE, IL – The Quad City Mallards have begun an upward swing, playing some of their best hockey of the season on Friday night against the Kalamazoo Wings. In previous matchups between the teams this season, the Wings had the Mallards’ number, winning three of the four prior games. The lone win that the Mallards had against the Wings was in a shoot-out the night after an 8-2 Wings walloping.
The first period was played rather evenly by the two teams, though Kalamazoo did have almost double the shots on goal with 17 to the Mallards’ nine. Both teams had some fantastic scoring chances, but C.J. Motte and Michael Garteig turned the puck away each time. The second period was when the two teams let loose, however.
The Mallards came off the penalty kill 25 seconds into the middle frame, and then quickly returned to the sin bin less than a minute later. The penalty kill hardly looked like a penalty kill, the Mallards taking the puck to the Kalamazoo zone and intercepting the passes rather than biding their time for the penalty to expire. This aggression paid off, as less than a minute after the Mallards returned to even strength Ryan McGrath notched the first goal of the night. Gergo Nagy stole the puck in the Mallards’ zone along the half-boards, bringing it up along the boards to the blue-line. McGrath took the pass, streaking in to shoot from the far edge of the left dot. After this goal, the Mallards began to play like a different team, finishing their checks and getting in the face of the visitors. Three minutes later, Nagy scored his own goal with help from McGrath and Jamie Tardif.
The puck was kept in the zone before being passed up to McGrath in the right dot. McGrath then fired it towards Nagy, who tried to send it in from the crease front. The puck bounced off Garteig’s pads to Tardif, who was also at the edge of the blue paint. The puck ricocheted off Tardif’s stick back to Nagy, who found the twine while the Mallards had the man advantage.
Motte’s shutout bid was ruined with roughly three and a half minutes left in the sandwich stanza when Eric Kattelus snapped in a backhand shot as he skated from right to left in front of the crease. Kattelus received the puck from the left dot, where Sean O’Rourke was set up. Scott Henegar also picked up an apple on that tally, his eighth of the season. Kalamazoo’s goal was not unanswered for long, as Triston Grant – who was celebrating a birthday on Friday – gave the Mallards back a two-goal lead with assistance from Willie Raskob. Raskob took the puck around the back of the net from left to right, passing it cross-ice from the dot to Grant at the opposite dot.
Tristan King extended the Mallards’ lead three minutes and 32 seconds into the third period when he sent in a backhand shot in the right corner after bringing the puck in. It was then that tempers began to come to a head, as a serious tussle broke out. Mackenzie Stewart took a fall in front of Motte, and as he got to his knees Brayden Low cross-checked him in the back. Some words were exchanged and the players had begun to pair off before Low was escorted to the penalty box. The door to the penalty box seemed a little loose, as half a minute later when there was a check in front of the penalty box the door came open. Kattelus was on the brunt end of the check and started to fall into the penalty box with Low. Kattelus regained his footing, and before skating away to rejoin the play he offered the butt-end of his stick to Low. That did not go well, as it caused another scrum as Kattelus jawed with a Mallard player who wanted to fight him. Kattelus was then slapped with a four-minute minor for attempting to butt-end. During this power-play, the Mallards would score not only once but twice.
The first Mallards’ power-play goal of the extended power-play came just as Low was coming out of the box for his cross-checking call. King streaked down the ice on a breakaway, Raskob making his way onto the scoresheet again with the lone assist on the goal that put King on hat-trick watch. Fifty-three seconds later McGrath joined King on hat-trick watch when he sent the puck in from the right dot, Nagy, and Tardif returning to the scoresheet with assists.
Kalamazoo answered back with a goal with only 53 seconds remaining in the game, but it was too little much too late for the Michigan-based team. J.T. Stenglein bounced the puck in off Motte’s left pad, Anton Cederholm, and Danny Moynihan assisting.
Following Saturday night’s game against the Thunder, Quad City returns to action on Friday against Indy.