Nine minutes and nine seconds into Saturday night's game, Terry Ruskowski looked to the i wireless Center ceiling.|
"Here we go again,'' the Quad City Mallards coach muttered, his team trailing 3-0. "Another Saturday night.''
But instead of letting an early-season hex continue to vex the hometown hockey team, Ruskowski made a change by replacing newcomer Jimmy Spratt in goal with season-long starter John Murray.
The move led to the Flock winning for the first time in five Saturdays this season, with Murray stopping all 26 shots faced in a 4-3 comeback victory over Tulsa.
"I felt sorry for Jimmy. Those goals really weren't his fault, but I had to change the momentum of the game somehow,'' said Ruskowski, one of the Central Hockey League's winningest coaches whose club also fell behind 3-0 in a Friday road loss at Wichita.
"We started off great; we had our chances on the offense end, but then they'd come down and score, one time on a two-on-none, another on a great shot. Same thing again and again. All of a sudden, we're down 3-0.
"Like a relief pitcher, even though you're making good pitches, if they're hitting you, you've got to bring in somebody else to try something different.''
Murray proved to be the antidote for what's ailed the Mallards (6-5-3, 13 points) on Saturday night's.
So, too, was Patrik Levesque, who scored a pair of goals while paired with fellow veterans Obi Aduba and Mike Hellyer on a reformed front line.
"I'd like to tell you it was great coaching,'' Ruskowski said with a big smile. "But it was hard work and desire and we hung on after that.''
Rookie Mike Stinziani, who assisted on what proved to be Brett Robinson's game-winning goal in the second period, also got the Flock flowing with QC's first goal, less than two minutes after the opening flurry by Tulsa (6-9-2, 14 points).
"Tulsa used to be a real defensively-oriented team,'' Ruskowski said. "But I've never seen a team change as quickly from defense to offense as these guys do. Their transition game was huge.
"But when you commit four players (to an attack), and there's a turnover, then you suffer on the other end. When we scored to make it 3-1, we got a lot of confidence to know we can score.''
The same shift -- with scoring leader Mickey Lang -- actually scored moments earlier, but the linesmen denied the goal, with the puck richocheting precariously out of the net to center ice.
"Were my eyes deceiving me? That was dead center. But the linesman said it definitely was not in,'' Ruskowski said. "I was thinking to myself, `Are you kidding me? Is this going to be another one of these nights?'''
"That's water under the bridge, though. Thank God we came back to score that goal.''
The Mallards play again today at neighboring rival Bloomington to complete a seven-games-in-10-days stretch with travel.
"Spratt's starting (today),'' Ruskowski said. "It was just one of those things that happened to him. When you fall off the horse, you have to get back on.''
Central Hockey League
QC Mallards 4, Tulsa 3
Tulsa 3 0 0--3
QC Mallards 2 2 0--4
First period: Goals: T Ryan Menei (unassisted), 5:20; T Gary Steffes (Ben Gordon), 8:04; T Ryan Menei (Mike Ullrich, Gordon), 9:09; QC Mike Stinziani (Brett Robinson, Derek Matheson), 10:57; QC Patrik Levesque (Obi Aduba, Mitch McColm), 17:10. Penalties: T Steffes (Hooking), 5:54.
Second period: Goals: QC Levesque (Mike Hellyer, Aduba), 7:10; QC Robinson (Stinziani, Mickey Lang), 16:58. Penalties: QC Stinziani (Tripping), 3:07; T Steffes (Holding), 11:11.
Third period: Goals: None. Penalties: T Gio Flamminio (Hooking), 2:17; QC Levesque (Tripping), 6:51; QC John Murray (Hooking), 13:34.
Shots on goal: T 31 (8-10-13), QC 37 (14-11-12). Goalie saves: T 33-of-37 (Ian Keserich, 59:03), QC 28-of-31 (Jimmy Spratt, 1-of-4, 9:09; John Murray, 27-of-27, 50:51). Power plays: T 0-for-3, QC 0-for-3.
Officials: Kenneth Anderson, referee; Justin Petterle and Patrick Richardson, linesman.
Three stars: 1, Murray, QC; 2, Levesque, QC; 3, Menei, T.