MOLINE, IL – The game on Friday between the Quad City Mallards and Tulsa Oilers was the most important game of the season to this point for both teams. Both teams are competing for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. A Mallards win would give them a five point lead over the Oilers with just four games left on the Mallards’ schedule. An Oilers win would pull the Oilers to within one point of the Mallards, and with a game in hand, a real chance to move ahead in the coming games.
This game had the intensity of a playoff game. There were several altercations after plays throughout the game, but no fights. Play tilted in the Mallards’ favor early when they drew two penalties in the first ten minutes. The Mallards outhsot the Oilers 7-2 during this time but failed to score. Oilers goaltender Jussi Olkinuora stopped all seven Mallards shots.
Late in the first period the Mallards built a two-goal lead. The game’s opening goal came when Austin Coldwell made an alert pass to spring Sam Warning on a breakaway. Warning made a good move and scored on a backhanded shot to put the Mallards up 1-0. Shortly after, the Mallards won the ensuing faceoff and got the puck into the offensive zone. Jared Knight made a nice play to get a puck away from a defenseman behind the Oilers’ net. He passed the puck to Tanner Eberle who was wide open in the slot. Eberle one-timed the puck into the net to give the Mallards a 2-0 lead.
The Oilers dominated the second period, outshooting the Mallards 17-8. Ben Murphy scored the Oiler’s first goal 8:36 into the second period. This was Murphy’s first professional goal. He was recently signed by the Oilers out of Bowling Green University. He now has one goal and four assists in his first five professional games.
Three minutes later, Matt Carey extended the Mallards lead back to two goals. Nathan Lutz tried clearing the puck around the boards, but it kicked out from the glass. Carey took possession and skated in and beat Olkinuora with a slapshot from between the circles. The Mallards added another goal late in the second period when Sam Warning tipped a centering pass from Olivier Archambault into the net. This gave the Mallards a 4-1 lead.
The third period was similar to the second period. The Oilers controlled play for the most part and outshot the Mallards 15-5. The Oilers got a goal early in the period. Matt Carey made a bad turnover right in the center of the ice and Christophe Lalancette beat Mallards’ goaltender Brody Hoffman to pull the Oilers to within 4-2.
At 9:12 of the third period, there was an altercation which resulted in Lutz being called for roughing, and Knight being called for high-sticking and unsportsmanlike conduct. The result was a two minute power play for the Oilers. The Mallards penalty kill held the Oilers to one shot during the power play.
The Mallards added to their lead at the 15:47 mark of the third period when they caught the Oilers in transition. Matt Neal broke into the offensive zone, then passed back to Sam Warning. Warning found Olivier Archambault right in front of the net with a pass. Archambault tipped it high past Olkinuora to put the Mallards up 5-2.
With about three and a half minutes to play the Oilers pulled their goalie for an extra attacker. Eric Drapluk scored around a minute later to pull the Oilers back within two goals. The Mallards would withstand the rest of the extra attacker time and hold on for a 5-3 win.
Brody Hoffman was outstanding in net for the Mallards, especially over the last two periods. He stopped 37 of 40 shots and was a big reason they won the game.
The win gives the Mallards a more comfortable lead for the last playoff spot. The Mallards own the tiebreaker over the Oilers, which is wins in regulation. Because of that, the Mallards “magic number” to clinch a playoff spot is now five. This number is decreased any time the Mallards gain standings points, or anytime the Oilers miss out on standings points. The Oilers play at Evansville Saturday. If they lose in regulation, the Mallards magic number will be down to three. If the Oilers pick up a single standings point, the Mallards’ magic number will be four. A regulation win for the Oilers would leave the Mallards’ magic number at five.
The Mallards’ next game is Sunday at the i-Wireless Center against the Indy Fuel.