MOLINE, IL – Hockey season is drawing closer and closer. Baseball season is almost over, football has begun, and the edges of leaves are just starting to edge into yellows, oranges, and reds. In the NHL, pre-season games have already begun, and ECHL rosters are swelling in preparation for training camps.
Before we start on the Quad City Mallards news, a little extra news of note for you all.
The Vegas Golden Knights, NHL affiliate of the Mallards, are 2-0 in preseason games, having beaten both the Vancouver Canucks and Colorado Avalanche. Tyler Wong scored the first hat-trick in Golden Knights history on September 17th; Wong is expected to play this season with the AHL’s Chicago Wolves after signing with them on May 18th. Alex Tuch, who was an expansion draft pick from the Minnesota Wild system and is probably a familiar name to Mallards fans, also scored a goal in the first preseason game in Golden Knights history.
Two days later the newest team in the league defeated the Colorado-based team 4-1, three of those goals coming in just a smidge over a two and a half minute span in the opening frame. The lone goal that slipped past Maxime Lagace came on the power play; Oscar Dansk had a perfect night in net, stopping all 18 shots he faced in the final period. Dansk faced more shots in 20 minutes than Lagace did in two periods of play, as Lagace stopped ten out of 11 shots.
On September 16th it was proven that a Quad City team could beat Fort Wayne in a playoff series when the Midwest League Championship finished at Modern Woodmen Park. The Quad City River Bandits defeated the Fort Wayne TinCaps 12-2 that Friday night along the Mississippi River in Game 3 of the series. Unfortunately, the baseball players leave shortly after the season is over, meaning there can be no inspirational speeches by the championship winners before the Quad City Mallards’ training camp begins.
Wednesday, the Mallards announced their 2017 training camp would open on Sunday, October 1. The prospective team will hit the ice for ten days before the home opener against the Toledo Walleye on Friday, October 13, their only days off being Saturday, October 7, and Monday, October 9. The first week of camp will take place at The River’s Edge in Davenport before transitioning over to the iWireless Center on October 10.
As of this writing, the Mallards have 14 forwards, seven defensemen, and one goalie on the preseason roster. Forwards Connor Gorman and Trever Hertz, as well as defensemen Mark Esshaki, Kevin Kirisits, and Kevin Patterson, are on try-out agreements. The addition of SPHL-ers Gorman, Hertz, and Kirisits was announced on August 28th. Gorman and Kirisits were teammates for the Peoria Rivermen this past season, where Gorman scored 22 goals with 14 assists over a 55-game stretch as a rookie. Before joining the Rivermen, he played for four seasons at State University of New York-Plattsburgh.
Kirisits is a recent graduate of Utica College, having played only three games for the Rivermen in April. Kirisits brings the Mallards’ average height up a few inches, as he measures in at 6’4”; a large body on the blueline is exactly what the Mallards need. Hertz attended Utica College, graduating in 2014 before beginning his pro career with the Mississippi Surge in their final season. Last season, Hertz played for the Knoxville Ice Bears, amassing 37 points (14G, 23A) over 50 games. Over three full seasons, plus the games after leaving Utica College, the forward has played 166 games with 47 goals and 74 assists (121 points).
Esshaki broke into the professional ranks this spring with the Norfolk Admirals, playing 15 games for them after finishing at Lake Forest College. At Lake Forest, he scored eight goals with 21 assists over 61 games. Patterson comes straight out of the college ranks after playing four seasons with Niagara University. While in college, he earned nine goals and 18 assists in 124 games.
Behind the bench, the Mallards have added assistant coach/player Jamie Tardif. AHL veteran Tardif is no stranger to the ECHL, however, beginning his pro career in 2006 with the Toledo Storm. During that same season, he also played one game with the AHL’s Manitoba Moose, two games with the Iowa Stars, and 27 games with the Grand Rapids Griffins. He stayed in Grand Rapids until the 2011-12 season, when he was signed by Providence Bruins. That season & next, Tardif spent most of his time in Providence, but played in two games for the Boston Bruins. After a season with the Rochester Americans, he then moved to Europe to play in the Deutsche Eishockey League (DEL) of Germany with the Mannheim Eagles. In almost 500 AHL games, Tardif has earned 142 goals and 125 assists. Last season he played 24 games with the Eagles, totaling three goals and five assists.
Ryan McGrath and Matt Pohlkamp bolster the Mallards’ offensive corps, having joined the team on September 5. McGrath played 42 games last season in the German Oberliga for the EC Harzer Falken, scoring 25 times and adding 33 assists. He played four games for the Manchester Monarchs at the end of the previous season after completing his collegiate career at UMass-Lowell. McGrath is no stranger to Iowa, as he spent two seasons with the Cedar Rapids Roughriders of the USHL, where Mallards head coach Phil Axtell played for two seasons between 2004 and 2006.
Pohlkamp played for Bowling Green State University for four seasons, totaling 38 goals and 50 assists in 160 games. He played nine games for the Toledo Walleye after finishing at Bowling Green, scoring once with two assists.
The Mallards then re-signed Justin Kovacs, who had led the team with 40 assists and 20 goals last season. Kovacs totaled a +16 in plus/minus rating in 68 games for his first season with the Mallards. Four of the five Mallards top point scorers from last season have returned, as Chris Francis, Josh MacDonald, and Sam Warning have signed again with the team.
Kyle Bigos and Czech-native Ales Sova signed on to guard the blue-line on September 11. A fourth-round pick by the Edmonton Oilers, Bigos played four years at Merrimack College with 14 goals and 33 assists in 133 games. The 6’5” defender also amassed 457 penalty minutes in those four seasons. Bigos returns to the ECHL after playing first for the San Francisco Bulls and then the Ontario Reign from 2013-2015. He split the 2013-2014 between the Bulls and Reign after the Bulls folded. He spent the 2015-16 season playing for the Edinburgh Capitals of the EIHL before playing two games for the Idaho Steelheads at the very beginning of last season.
Sova begins his time as a Mallard after playing seven seasons in Europe. He spent the last two seasons with Herning Blue Fox in the Danish Metal Ligaen, where he totaled 14 points in 48 games. He began the 2015-16 season with Asiago HC of the Italy Serie A, playing two games for them, as well as playing for the Czech LHK Jestrabi Prostejov. The prior four seasons were spent with Znojmo Orli HC of the Austrian League. Sova’s career so far has totaled 272 games with 43 points (11G, 32 A).
The blue-line grew stronger with the addition of Greg Amlong, who joins the team after playing for the now-defunct Elmira Jackals. He scored three goals with 14 assists in 59 games after playing a single game for the Wichita Thunder at the very beginning of the season. He played for the Greenville Swamp Rabbits after graduating from Rochester Institute of Technology in 2016. He transferred from UMass-Lowell after two years; he ended his collegiate career with eight goals and 28 assists in 105 total games. He was a teammate of Kovacs, McGrath, and Warning during his time with the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders from 2010-2012.
Kyle Follmer returns to the Quad Cities after being cut from the team at the beginning of last November. He then played 39 games for the Fort Wayne Komets, scoring four times with nine assists. He had previously played 41 games for the Mallards during the 2015-16 season after leaving the Allen Americans. He won the Kelly Cup with the Americans the previous season, playing 45 regular season games and four playoff games with 18 points.
Forwards Brayden Low and Alex Globke are the latest signings, inking contracts with the Mallards on September 18th. Low previously played for the Rapid City Rush, his rookie campaign seeing him score three goals and adding four assists. He played one season at the University of Alberta, totaling three points in 21 games. For those of you who enjoy reading stories from a player’s perspective, Low founded The Junior Hockey Journal, which offers “an exclusive & in-depth look at our hockey players’ junior career paths” according to their homepage.
Globke also begins his second pro season after playing for the Walleye last season. While in Toledo, he racked up five goals with 12 assists in a 29-game stretch. Before joining the ECHL ranks, he played at Lake Superior State University where he played 100 games and amassed 49 points (21G, 28A.)
With 22 players on the roster, coach Phil Axtell will have to cut a few guys before the season begins on October 13. With the Golden Knights training camp already in full swing, and the Chicago Wolves’ training camp starting Sunday, there will likely be a few who get assigned from the new affiliation.
The only way to know who will appear on the Mallards’ ice come opening night is to stay tuned to thesinbin.net for all your Mallards news.