MOLINE, IL — The Tulsa Oilers’ undefeated six-game streak came to an end Saturday night against a dogged and motivated Quad City Mallards team. The Mallards’ commanding defense held the Oilers to two goals in what could be classified as a battle of defenders, as the home team found twine three times. The two netminders also were engaged in close battle, former Mallard Brody Hoffman facing only one more shot than CJ Motte. The Mallards also extended their own win-streak to four games.
Mallards fans didn’t have a warm welcome for Hoffman when he returned to the iWireless Center, greeting him with sing-song chants of “HOFF-MAN” and “BRO-DY”. The chants became even louder after each goal he surrendered. I know on the ice there’s no such thing as friends, but apparently, that extends to the stands as well. Hoffman was acquired on Friday by Tulsa from the Adirondack Thunder. His appearance against the Mallards was his first game of this season.
The Mallards seemed to be a vastly improved team from even Wednesday’s game against the Missouri Mavericks. They had possession of the puck much more, they won the battles in the corners more, and even after giving up a goal they didn’t fall apart as was the case in recent seasons past. The Mallards seem to have finally found their game.
Sam Warning began the scoring at 6:32 of the first period after Justin Kovacs passed the puck from the glove dot to Warning waiting on the other side. Mike Wilson also earned an assist on the first goal of the night.
Shortly after Eric Drapluk was sent to the penalty box for holding, it appeared Alex Petan was high-sticked, but no penalty was called. Michael Parks bowled Hoffman over a few minutes later, drawing a goalie interference call. At the same time, Brandon Martell was called for tripping, resulting in four-on-four hockey.
The second period was slower paced than the first, though Tulsa did tie the game halfway through the period. Christophe Lalancette found twine behind Motte to ruin a shut-out bid, with Garrett Ladd and Jacob Poe assisting. Later, Kevin Gibson and Lalancette would attempt to fight in the corner to Hoffman’s left, but before any punches could be thrown the linesmen separated the two.
Just under two minutes into the final period, Chris Francis would put the Mallards back in the lead with help from Nathan Todd. That would be Francis’ first goal as a Mallard. Hoffman made the initial save, but the rebound went to Todd who then passed to the other side of Hoffman to Francis.
Phil Brewer would then even the score yet again with help from Martell and Emerson Clark. Originally the goal was credited to Martell with the lone assist going to Clark, but post-game the scoresheet was updated to give Brewer the marker.
A minute later, Warning would streak into the Oilers’ zone and battle in front of the net before sending the puck behind former teammate Hoffman to give the Mallards the lead once more. Kovacs and Gibson would assist on the go-ahead goal, marking the defender’s first point of the season.
After Tulsa bench boss Jason Christie pulled Hoffman with 74 seconds left in the game, the pressure on Motte increased incredibly. He made several fantastic saves in the last minute of play, especially during the last 10 seconds. The Oilers swarmed around the net during the final 10 ticks, and Motte made an exceptional save with his shoulder or arm that sent the puck up up up into the air and behind the net. From my vantage point, it had looked like the game was about to be tied again and then Motte made that save.
The Mallards will go on a two-game road trip next week, first playing in Cincinnati on Thursday and then in Indy on Saturday before returning home for a Sunday game. The two road games will both start at 6:30 CST.