MOLINE, IL – Nothing went quite according to plan at the iWireless Center on Friday night. The Kelly Cup was supposed to make an appearance, but everything except the Cup showed up Friday afternoon. Blame it on the lack of an actual handler or the method it was shipped, #WeWantKelly took on an entirely different meaning. The Reed brothers played back-up for both teams, Jake Reed for the Mallards and Brad Reed for the Alaska Aces. The result on the ice, or in the standings, was less than expected as well.
The Mallards’ power play unit looked improved from previous games, but they were still unable to put anything in the twine. On the first power play for the Mallards on the night they had a lot of good chances, but Kevin Carr was too strong in net. Carr would continue to be strong all night.
The Aces got on the board a little before halfway through the first period, Peter Sivak sending it past Adam Vay. Tyler Shattock and Matthew Geurts were credited with the assists on Sivak’s tally. The puck slipped through in between Vay’s elbow and body, which is a goal a netminder wishes they could take back more than any other. Danny Moynihan added to the Aces’ lead seven minutes later with help from Yan-Pavel Laplante and Marc-Olivier Roy. Laplante passed to Moynihan, who rocketed it top shelf. Vay’s left arm was too slow to make the save, reacting after the puck was already past him.
The Mallards’ piggy bank was apparently empty, as they were unable to buy a goal through almost two periods of play. Carr made amazing save after amazing save, the posts helping him out with each turn. Carr made a save with his big toe once, while Mike Wilson was unable to put the puck in a gaping net after a wrap-around attempt. The visitors shot to a 3-0 lead at the 4:53 mark when Mackenzie Stuart fired a slapper from the blue line after receiving the pass from Shattock and Sivak.
It wasn’t until there was only 1:34 remaining in the second period that the Mallards were able to end Carr’s shutout, Michael Parks netting the goal. Nolan LaPorte passed to Parks, who passed to Chris Francis. Francis passed it back to Parks, who sent it in from the right side. The comeback took a halt at 2:30 of the third when Brad Navin scored with help from Ben Lake. Two minutes later Adam Gilmour scored unassisted from the blue-line, rocketing the puck through traffic after a clearing attempt.
The final Mallards goal came at 7:29 into the third period, Jack Nevins scoring his tenth goal of the season. Justin Kovacs and Andrew Panzarella assisted on the goal. With 3:18 left in the game Sam Warning was whistled for goaltender interference on a call that drove fans insane. It appeared to many that Warning was forced into colliding with Carr in front of the net, and going on the penalty-kill grounded the Mallards’ comeback to a standstill.
Chris Leibinger made his pro-debut with the Mallards, donning #6 for the team.
With the loss, the Mallards can go no higher than the third seed in the Central Division, and will not have home-ice advantage when they take on presumably the Fort Wayne Komets in the first round of the play-offs. The Mallards and Aces will face-off for a final time on Saturday, with puck-drop set for 7:05 CST.