KALAMAZOO, Mich. – Another Pink in the Rink night, another home team loss. On Saturday, the Quad City Mallards had lost 5-1 to the Fort Wayne Komets on their last night of Pink in the Rink, but when the Illinois-based team traveled to another team’s Pink in the Rink, their luck was different.
Both the Kalamazoo Wings and the Mallards were in three games in three days stretch last weekend, and both won two games and lost one game. The Mallards, however, were coming off a dramatic Sunday win in which they defeated the Komets in a lopsided shot-affair, while the Wings had lost Sunday’s game against the Indy Fuel.
Before the Wings and Mallards began their contest, several breast cancer survivors were recognized on the ice before the national anthem. The ice was painted bright pink, a stark contrast to the white ice but pink names that the Mallards had played on during Friday and Saturday’s contests. As the period progressed, the pink got lighter, but during intermission, the Zamboni apparently laid down more pink water on the surface to restore the bright glaring color to the ice. Whether the color of the ice affected play is uncertain, but eight goals being scored possibly excludes the notion that the pink was truly detrimental to tracking the puck.
The Wings dominated play at first, helped by the fact that the Mallards went on back-to-back penalty kills. The first penalty still had eight seconds remaining when Kyle Bigos joined Kyle Novak in the sin bin for the same charge – delay of game. Novak was not the guilty party for the charge he served, however, as it was C.J. Motte who had shot the puck cleanly over the glass to earn the penalty. After the two penalties, the Mallards appeared to be having trouble finding their teammates’ sticks, as there were many errant passes to begin the game. It was not until the closing minutes of the opening period that the scoring began.
Josh Pitt broke the deadlock at 17:25, sending the puck in over Motte’s left shoulder. Danny Moynihan passed from the right boards over to the left dot, where Pitt fired it in just ten seconds after Jake Bolton entered the box for cross-checking. Aaron Irving also picked up an apple on the marker. Only 21 seconds later, Pitt assisted on Kyle Bushee’s tally. Pitt came streaking into the Mallards’ defensive zone down the center of the ice; veering left almost to the goal line. He then backhanded it over to Bushee, who was waiting at the right corner of the crease. Eric Kattelus also assisted on the goal.
Gergo Nagy began the Mallards’ comeback six minutes into the middle frame when he faked out Joel Martin while on the breakaway to end the shut-out. Alexander Kuqali earned his first point since February 3rd with the assist. Seven minutes later, Nagy tied the game with an unassisted goal following a turn-over by Pitt. Nagy grabbed the puck in the right corner from the turn-over, skating across the front of the crease before back-handing it into the top left corner of the goal.
The Mallards continued their scoring rampage a few minutes later, when Tristan King took the puck from the right corner and headed towards Gretzky’s office. Just before entering the office, King chipped the puck up to Kuqali at the goal mouth. Kuqali tapped in the pass to give the Mallards their first lead of the night.
Kyle Follmer then cleaned up the garbage in front of the crease after Martin failed to cover. The puck trickled across from right to left, sliding under Martin’s glove directly to Follmer. Follmer was able to make the puck kiss the twine with minimal effort, Nagy and Keegan Kolesar assisting. The Mallards’ four unanswered goals were not unanswered for long, however, as J.T. Stenglein drew the Wings within one goal just eight seconds after Follmer’s tally. Willie Raskob had taken the puck after the faceoff and was skating backwards with it, but tripped over the blue line, and turned the puck over to Stenglein, who continued into the Mallards’ defensive zone with the puck. Bigos attempted to poke check, but the shot from Stenglein instead deflected off the blade of Bigos’ stick and into the net.
The scoring ended at 13:24 of the final frame when Kolesar traveled in on a breakaway down the center of the ice. Martin sprawled down on the ice in an attempt to make the save, but Kolesar still had the puck and fired it in from the left side over Martin. Brayden Low made his way onto the scoresheet with the assist.
The two teams will see each other again on Friday in Moline for another $2 Hot Dog/ $2 Beer Night presented by 97X. Puck drop is set for 7:05 CST. This game will be one of the ECHL.TV showcase games, and will be streamed on Facebook Live.