A different Quad City Mallards team got off the bus in Indy on Saturday than got on the bus in Moline on Friday night. A defense that didn’t play the systems spelled disaster for the Illinois team on Saturday, and nearly cost Friday’s game.
The Mallards beat the Wichita Thunder 4-2 on Friday in a back-and-forth game. After the Mallards took an early lead, the game was tied by Branden Martell. Wichita then took a 2-1 lead when former Mallards Mason Baptista scored his second goal of the year. Wichita had been dominating physically for much of the first period, having possession of the puck for long spans even without having the shots on net to back it up. In fact, Wichita scored their second goal of the night on only their fourth shot.
The Mallards somehow kept the Thunder off the scoreboard in the second period, a period dominated by the Thunder. The Thunder out-shot the Mallards 14-4 but were unable to beat Brody Hoffman.
The Mallards came back strong in the third period to score two goals within ten minutes, one being scored by defenseman Mike Monfredo. A far different Mallards teams was on the ice for the third period that night. The Mallards out-shot the Thunder 12-4 in the third period to earn the win.
The next night the Mallards lost 5-2 to the Indy Fuel. Two of the few bright spots in the game were a goal by Oilivier Archambault and a goal by Vladimir Nikiforov. They each had a strong weekend. Archambault had two goals and an assist on the weekend, and Nikiforov had one goal and two assists. The Fuel and Mallards now share first place in the Midwest Division with the Cincinnati Cyclones. All three teams have 11 points.
The story of the game though twas that the Mallards defense too often found themselves out of position.
“Brutal. Just brutal,” Coach Terry Ruskowski told the Dispatch-Argus. “Our defense should be in front of their forwards. So what did our defense do? We played behind them all night. That’s frustrating because that’s not how we’re supposed to do it.“
There is currently a problem with the Mallards not playing the systems that Coach Ruskowski is teaching. Ruskowski is quoted several times as saying the players need to follow the systems, and get to the net for rebound goals.
When the Mallards play the systems, they can dominate their opponents. But when they forget the systems and play for themselves, they are the ones getting dominated. It is a similar dynamic to what we saw last year with very inconsistent play from one game to the next.
The Mallards next see action at home on November 11 against the Alaska Aces. It will be the first ever meeting between the two teams. Alaska will come in 4-6-0-1. Puck drop is at 6:35.
Anna Headley contributed to this article.