MOLINE, IL – What’s the most important position on a hockey team? After the weekend series against the Idaho Steelheads, the Quad City Mallards would probably say the goaltender. In two games, Ivan Kulbakov made 103 saves – 57 on Friday and 46 on Saturday, making him my vote for the ECHL’s Goalie of the Week. Saturday’s contest was much closer than Friday’s, even the shot count reflecting that as Branden Komm made 40 saves on the night. Once again the two teams required extra hockey to decide the score, but no shoot-out was necessary.
The Steelheads appeared to out-play the Mallards for most of the first five minutes of the game, but that isn’t surprising as the Mallards went onto a penalty kill just 36 seconds into the match. The Mallards broke their streak of surrendering a goal within the early minutes of the game, however, as neither goal let a shot slip in during the first period. Kulbakov made several fantastic saves during the opening frame and continued throughout the rest of the night. Komm faced only eight shots in the first for Kulbakov’s 17. The Mallards might have been using the first period as a time to wear the visitors out early on, as after the horn sounded to start the second period the teams played more evenly.
The Mallards scored the first goal of the night for the first time this season, the goal light flashing at two minutes and 46 seconds of the sandwich stanza. Brayden Low carried the puck in along the right side, backhanding the pass to Matt Pohlkamp, who sent the puck to kiss the twine in the top left corner. Jamie Tardif also assisted on this power-play goal whole Jefferson Dahl was in the penalty box thinking about his holding call 40 seconds earlier. Four minutes later the Mallards added to their lead when Josh MacDonald took the cross-ice pass offered by Justin Kovacs from right to left. Kovacs had received the puck between the circle and the blue-line to Komm’s right after a backhand pass by Kevin Kirisits.
Idaho struck back shortly after, Mitch Moroz slipping the puck just above Kulbakov’s glove to meet the twine on the left side. Assisting on Moroz’s marker were Justin Parizek and Corbin Baldwin. Six seconds after the Mallards went on a penalty-kill due to Garrett Klotz earning a roughing call during a stoppage, Steven McParland tied the game with help from Shane Hanna and Brady Brassart. Kulbakov appeared to be screened during the play, the puck sailing just under the center of the crossbar.
The third period was uneventful save for a penalty called on Kulbakov with just under five minutes remaining in the game. Kulbakov took a shot off his mask, and then removed said mask before the whistle blew. The Mallards were able to kill that penalty and succeeded in wearing Idaho out more.
With just under a minute left in the overtime period, Aaron Harstad crashed the net and ran Kulbakov, earning a goalie interference call. Kulbakov took a few moments to stand up after being knocked down, the athletic trainer even coming out to check on him, but he completed the game. Sam Warning netted the overtime winner with just 4.8 seconds remaining on the clock. He took the shot from the far edge of the left dot after receiving the pass from Alexander Kuqali; MacDonald assisted on the goal.
C.J. Motte, who had been signed to a PTO by the Chicago Wolves on October 19, made his Wolves debut on Saturday. He turned away 27 of 28 shots against the Milwaukee Admirals to help the team get the 2-1 win, also earning the third star. Komm earned the third star for the Steelheads, while Kulbakov earned first star honors for the second night in a row. The Mallards will take on the Indy Fuel in Moline next Friday, November 3 at 7:05 CT.
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