MOLINE, Ill. – There was a battle for 26th place in the ECHL on Wednesday night between the Rapid City Rush and Quad City Mallards. The Mallards held the penultimate place in the standings by only one point before the matchup began, and with contests against the Kalamazoo Wings and Cincinnati Cyclones this weekend, the Mallards needed to win to attempt to hold that spot.
Fireworks began shortly after the opening faceoff, as former Mallard Garrett Klotz and Travis Armstrong dropped the gloves in the Mallards’ defensive zone after the Rush player had said hello to Quentin Shore by delivering a hard check into the boards. Both combatants fell to the ice and then returned to their feet to continue the tilt, Armstrong pumping the crowd up as he skated to the sin bin afterward. Klotz also attempted to pump the crowd by mirroring Armstrong’s raised arms gesture, but the effort was met with considerably less applause.
Ryan McGrath almost ended the shutout at 8:45 after going on a breakaway after coming out of the box. He streaked up the ice along the half-boards, cutting left to try to beat Christian Frey on the glove side. McGrath couldn’t get the puck in the air, however, Frey kicking his foot out as he lay sprawled on his stomach to make the save.
It would take another almost nine minutes for the first goal to be scored, Matt Pohlkamp putting the Mallards on the board with help from Chris Izmirlian and Alex Globke. Pohlkamp shot from the low slot, the puck hitting the inside of the crossbar over Frey’s head before bouncing back out.
The teams looked evenly matched in the first period and through much of the middle frame as well, but things turned south for the home team quickly. A bounce that appeared to go off of Tommy Muratore’s skate found the back of the net behind C.J. Motte, tying the game at one apiece. Aaron Boyd was the last Rush player to touch the puck, and therefore was credited with his first goal of the season.
The ultimate period between the two teams for the foreseeable future was all Rapid City’s game. Another bad bounce gave the visitors their first lead of the night, as the puck bounced over Motte’s left shoulder after deflecting off of Willie Raskob’s stick in front of the crease.
Klotz returned to the penalty box very briefly midway through the third period after being given a five minute major for charging Globke at center ice. As soon as Klotz sat down in the box the referee told him he was done for the night, and he was not happy about it. He yelled at the referee before being escorted off the ice, slamming a puck into the boards on his way to the door, Klotz also was given a ten-minute game misconduct on top of the five-minute major.
The Mallards did a poor job on the extended power play, only amassing two shots on net the entire five minutes of the man advantage. Neither team was successful on their respective power plays throughout the night, however.
Head coach Phil Axtell pulled Motte in an attempt to even the score and force overtime, but as often happens there was an empty net goal scored by the leading team. Peter Sivak put the nail in the coffin, and 25 seconds later Brayden Sherbinin also added a tally from the visitor’s blue line.
With the loss, the Mallards fell back into the league’s basement, while Rapid City improved to 52 points on the campaign.
Even with an ECHL club record 54 shots, the Mallards were unable to get more than one puck past Frey. Motte faced 40 shots throughout the night, stopping 37 of them.
Next up for the Mallards is the Kalamazoo Wings on Friday at 7:05 CDT at the TaxSlayer Center. It will be the final $2 Beer and $2 Hot Dog Night presented by 97X. The Mallards will then close their ECHL chapter on Saturday night against the Cincinnati Cyclones.