MOLINE, IL – The Quad City Mallards took on the Tulsa Oilers on Saturday for a battle of the special teams. Both teams managed a short-handed tally, while one also added a power-play goal. Ivan Kulbakov made his Mallards debut, facing 31 shots while Jake Hildebrand faced 26.
Once again the Mallards fell behind early, Conner Bleackley scoring unassisted while the Mallards had the man advantage. Bleackley was engaged in a board battle with Ales Sova and then streaked up the half-boards with the puck to send it in top-shelf. During that goal, Christophe Lalancette was in the sin bin for slashing. That penalty came at the most opportune time for the Mallards, as a goal was almost scored after Kulbakov came out of his crease to play the puck and a Tulsa player flew in. Kulbakov left a gaping net but the whistle blew the play dead for Lalancette’s penalty.
Five minutes after Tulsa’s opening goal Justin Kovacs had a great breakaway, streaking down the middle of the ice towards Hildebrand, but was unable to score. Two minutes later Keegan Kolesar scored his first career goal with help from Greg Amlong and Alexander Kuqali. Kuqali passed the puck along the blue-line from the half-boards to Amlong on the opposite side. Amlong then sent a slapper towards the net, which was redirected by Kolesar. With just under five minutes left in the period the Mallards scored a goal that was immediately waved off for goalie interference as Sam Warning was in the crease. Forty seconds later Hildebrand made a highlight reel save on Josh MacDonald, diving coast to coast to close the gaping net.
The Mallards still looked a bit rusty in the early parts of the first period, but as play progressed they began to look more like a well-oiled machine; the last two minutes especially the team clicked well together.
Another early goal put the Oilers up 2-1 just over two minutes into the second period. Dylan Hubbs got on the score sheet when he sent the puck in from the blue-line on Kulbakov’s left past the goalie’s right elbow. That tally was assisted by Lalancette and Dmitrii Sergeev. The Mallards answered back with a short-handed goal of their own a few minutes later when Brayden Low chipped the puck out of the Mallards’ defensive zone to Warning. Warning skated along the half-boards and sent the puck flying from the left dot in the Oilers’ zone; Tristan King had been tagged for slashing 36 seconds prior. The Mallards earned their first lead of the night two mites later off a Kovacs goal assisted by Kolesar. Hildebrand left his crease to play the puck behind the net, and while he was repositioning himself in the crease again Kolesar batted the puck from Gretzky’s office to Kovacs as the latter streaked towards the net. The lead didn’t last long, however.
Tulsa scored a power-play goal at 17:12 as MacDonald sat in the box for cross-checking. Adam Pleskach redirected the puck on the right side, Evan Richardson making the original shot after receiving the pass from Tommy Vannelli. The Mallards and their fans believed that Jamie Tardif had scored at four minutes and 11 seconds of the third period, but an early whistle had blown the play dead. A Mallard shot the puck at Hildebrand’s chest before the referee lost sight of the puck for a second as it bounced off the goalie. Tardif fired the puck into a wide open net as the whistle sounded, the lights flashing off as the goal light lit red. The officials had no conference on the call, drawing ire from many. The game remained tied until just over halfway through the final frame when Alexandre Ranger took a wild shot that managed to find its way past Kulbakov. Chris Joyaux and Bleackley were credited with the apples on that goal.
The Mallards felt a renewed sense of drive after giving up the 4-3 lead, Matt Pohlkamp tying the game two minutes later. Pohlkamp sent in a backhanded shot as he skated across the mouth of the crease from Hildebrand’s left to the right, Low and Kolesar returning to the score sheet with the assists. Twenty-three seconds later MacDonald scored the game-winning goal with help from King. MacDonald was in the low slot when he took the pass from King, King being at the left dot’s farthest and top-most edge when he passed.
Kyle Follmer had the honor of the Mallards’ first five-minute major of the season, dropping the gloves with Pleskach 30 seconds after the winning goal was scored. Pleskach leveled Alex Globke in the Mallards’ defensive zone just past the left dot; Follmer took exception to the hit as you do, and after the whistle for Pleskach’s clipping penalty began jawing at the Oiler. After shaking his gloves a few times, the two engaged in fisticuffs. While it appeared that Pleskach might have landed more blows, it was Follmer who landed on top when the fight was over.
Pohlkamp ended the game in the penalty box after sending the puck over the glass in his own zone. The Oilers’ net was empty during this time, bringing their advantage to 6-on-4 for the last 42 seconds of the game.
The Mallards will finish their three-game home stand on Wednesday against the Oilers. As it is a Wednesday game, the puck will drop at 6:35 CST; after Wednesday’s game the Mallards will travel to the Toledo Walleye for a 6:15 CST game on Saturday.