MOLINE, IL — The Quad City Mallards inched closer to their second straight Kelly Cup Playoff berth, defeating the Indy Fuel 4-2 on Sunday and shrinking their magic number to three.
The Fuel took an early 1-0 lead after Daniel Ciampini slid the puck into a gaping net just over one minute into the game. Ciampini took the rebound from Nick Petrecki as Brody Hoffman was unable to make the sprawling save.
The Mallards appeared to have bus-legs in the early part of the first period, but quickly began dominating play after Indy’s goal.
Olivier Archambault tied the game six minutes later from the high slot, Matt Neal and Kevin Gibson assisting. Shortly after Archambault’s goal, Tanner Eberle then had a breakaway chance after the receiving the puck from center ice, but was unable to score on Keegan Asmundson.
Jared Knight scored his first goal of the night to put the Mallards up 2-1 at the 15:05 mark of the second period. The puck ricocheted from the left goal post to the right goal post as it slid across the line. Zach Pochiro earned the lone assist on Knight’s first tally.
The Mallards’ lead wouldn’t last for long.
Just 1:45 later, Fuel Defenseman Anders Franzon tied the game at 2 while the Fuel were on a powerplay, thanks to an Austin Coldwell penalty for hooking. Ben Marshall and Ciampini assisted on the tying goal.
Early in the third period, the Mallards were forced to go a man-down for almost four minutes when Vladimir Nikiforov was called for a double-minor high-sticking penalty. Luckily for Nikiforov and the Mallards, the Fuel would go scoreless on the man-advantage.
The huge kill seemed to give the Mallards the momentum, as Knight again gave the Mallards the lead for good at the 6:18 mark of the period. Sam Warning and Alex Gudbranson earning the assists. Soon after, tensions began to boil over.
Petricki shoved Eberle a couple times, Eberle refusing to drop the gloves. The referees separated the two players before Mike Monfredo stepped in to exchange words with Petricki. After those two were separated. Archambault and Franzon jousted for a moment. Petrecki, Eberle, Monfredo, and Franzon all earned off-setting roughing penalties.
Matt Carey scored on the empty net with 28 seconds remaining in the game to seal the Mallards’ victory.
The Mallards will travel to Fort Wayne to face the Komets at 6:30 PM CST on Wednesday before returning home on Friday. The Mallards can clinch as early as Wednesday with a win over the Komets and if Tulsa loses either Tuesday night at Missouri or Wednesday at Wichita.