MOLINE, IL – The Quad City Mallards have bad luck on opening night. Whether it’s Friday the 13th or not, the Mallards just do not have Lady Luck on their side for the first time they play together. For the tenth season in a row, the Mallards have fallen in their home opener. This time they faced the Toledo Walleye, who last season had faced the eventual Kelly Cup champions the Colorado Eagles in the Western Conference Finals and lost four games to one.
The first two and a half minutes for the Mallards were not good, as Toledo scored twice in that time-span – in fact, the goals came 29 seconds apart. Patrick McCarron began the scoring with help from Kevin Tansey, going top shelf to disturb the water bottle behind C.J. Motte just five seconds under the two-minute mark. The next goal came from the glove side after it appeared that Motte was screened by his own defense. Connor Crisp scored the goal that put the Walleye up two-nothing,Vili Saarijarvi and Alden Hirschfeld earning the assists.
Throughout the first period the Mallards were almost always just a wee bit too slow on the release or just a wee bit outmuscled. The shots by the end of the period were 10 to five, but one of those five shots by the Mallards was Sam Warning’s first goal of the season. Warning, the longest-tenured Mallard currently playing, jammed the puck into the net along the right crease after receiving the pass from Justin Kovacs, the puck sliding past Pat Nagle to sound the train whistle for the first time this season at 16. Jacob Graves also tallied an assist on that goal, his first point as a Mallard. Nagle had been with the Fort Wayne Komets last season, frustrating fans just as much then as he did on Friday.
The special teams were ineffective, as by the end of the night both teams had three power plays but no power play goals. Tristan King was the first player to get a penalty during the night, the call coming with just a smidge under three minutes left to play in the first frame.
Kovacs almost evened the score at two apiece just over six minutes into the second period when the puck appeared to bounce off his shield as he skated around the back of the net from left to right, but the bounce wasn’t aimed right. Both goalies made stupendous saved during the course of the night, Motte making one save a few minutes later while on his back. King then actually tied the game up at 11 minutes and 42 seconds of the sandwich stanza when he tipped the puck in on the right side; player/ assistant coach Jamie Tardif and Josh MacDonald assisted on the tally. A.J. Jenks scored the game-winning goal at 15:10 of the second, Tansey making his way onto the scoresheet again along with Christian Hilbrich. The puck sailed in over Motte’s right shoulder.
With just under three minutes left in the second period Crisp collided with Motte after the goalie had left his crease to play the puck infront of the left trapezoid. As he skated back to the blue-paint, Crisp leveled him alongside the net. Warning took exception to the hit and pushed Crisp to the ground, but was pulled off of the offending player before gloves could be dropped. Warning was escorted off the ice, much to the loud displeasure of the fans in attendance. After the teams had returned to the ice for the final period, it was announced that Warning had earned himself a long thinking session in the penalty box with a ten minute misconduct for his actions. Crisp went unpenalized for running the goaltender.
Fifty seconds before the second intermission Keegan Kolesar appeared to be high-sticked or slashed in the mouth infront of the Toledo bench. While it should have been a double-minor because his lip was bleeding, no penalty call was made. However, Kolesar was slapped with an interference penalty immediately following the non-call. There was just over one minute of four-on-four hockey due to Austen Brassard going in the sin bin at 18:13 for slashing before Toledo went on the power-play, but neither team was able to do anything with that time.
The final period was uneventful save for two penalties, one on either team. Motte made 30 saves on 33 shots, while Nagle earned first star with his 20 saves on 22 shots. The Mallards take on the Tulsa Oilers and former Mallard Vladimir Nikiforov Saturday at home, with puck drop set for 7:05PM CST.