MOLINE, IL – The Quad City Mallards have begun a new streak, they hope. The Mallards ended their 13 game losing streak in dramatic fashion, beating a team that at one time had also lost 13 straight games, the Indy Fuel. Eight total goals were scored, one coming on the man advantage. The Mallards also welcomed back goaltender C.J. Motte after his month long stint with the AHL’s Iowa Wild on a professional tryout.
The Mallards found the recipe for success on Friday night by playing a full game and finishing their checks. It was the first game where the entire team played physical and was not afraid to go into the boards. There were several hits that laid players out, both teams having the aggressive style of play that tends to herald a close match, if not a win itself. The first period, the Fuel dominated for a large part, but there’s a reason hockey games aren’t only 20 minutes long. The Mallards were also short two men on the bench for the entire game, making their aggressive play all the more impressive when compared to their previous games.
Triston Grant, who was signed by the Mallards on December 19th, was given the “C” for the game. The Mallards captaincy was once held by Chris Francis until he was traded to the Orlando Solar Bears to complete the off-season trade for Tristan King. Francis was then flipped to the Wheeling Nailers. No other player wore a letter on Friday.
Josh Shalla scored the first goal of the game just under six minutes into the opening frame after taking a pass from Michael Neal. Neal passed form the point down to the right dot, where Shalla sent the puck to meet twine from the near edge of the dot. Riley Sweeney also picked up an assist on Shalla’s goal, though it would not be the last time Shalla made his way onto the score sheet.
Just a little under 11 minutes into the game, the two teams traded a couple breakaway chances, but both goalies stood strong to keep the score from changing. It would take an interesting play to give the Fuel another goal, as the puck bounced off of Darian Dziurzynski’s helmet and into the net behind Motte. Shalla and Jack Burton were credited with the assists on that tally. Ryan McGrath then kick-started the Mallards’ offense with a highlight reel worthy goal. He deked around the defense, scoring unassisted to cut the Fuel’s lead to only one with 53 seconds left in the period.
Sam Warning tied the game up with a snipe from the right dot. Warning had brought the puck from one end of the ice to the other, sending it into the top left corner over Etienne Marcoux’s glove. The only goal of the second period was assisted by Jake Bolton and Brayden Low. The Fuel then took the lead just over a minute into the final frame while Kyle Follmer was down on the ice to Motte’s left. It appeared he had caught a stick to the nethers, then a Fuel player skated over him, and Motte went far out on the right. Shalla scored the last goal for the Fuel, Dziurzynski and Robin Press picking up the apples.
Exactly a minute after Shalla’s second goal of the game, Gergo Nagy tied the score again, the puck which he had sent in from the point sliding five-hole. McGrath earned the primary assist due to it being his blocked shot that bounced to Nagy to allow the goal, while Warning was given the secondary assist. Warning then gave the Mallards their first lead in over 291 minutes of hockey. Kyle Novak passed from the blue line along the left boards to Tristan King, who then dropped it to Warning at the low slot. King and Warning connected for another goal roughly ten minutes later, this time King lighting the lamp behind Marcoux. Warning sent the puck skittering across the blue paint left to right, King tapping the puck in to insure a Mallards victory.
The Mallards and Fuel will face off again on Saturday to finish out the two games in two days series before the All-Star Break begins after the game. Puck drop is set for 7:05 CST, and after the game there will be a concert by The Dani Lynn Howe Band, as it will be Country Night presented by WLLR.