BLOOMINGTON -- Terry Ruskowski hopes to have finally found the remedy to what's been ailing his Quad City Mallards.|
"I'm looking for more 10 a.m. games,'' the Flock's head coach joked after QC snapped a four-game losing skid, 4-2, in a rare morning matinee Wednesday.
Newcomer Anthony Perdicaro snapped a 2-2 tie early in the third period, and John Murray made 39 saves in goal as the Mallards topped the rival Blaze for the first time in four visits to Bloomington's U.S. Cellular Coliseum.
By stopping the Central Hockey League's highest-scoring squad, QC (8-11-3, 19 points) avoided its longest losing streak since joining the Double-A circuit in 2010-11, plus moved out of last place in this season's 10-team playoff scramble.
Bloomington (12-9-1, 25 points) failed to gain ground on fourth-place Rapid City (11-7-5, 27 points), the Flock's foe for two games this weekend to complete a season-long five-game road trip.
After returning home Wednesday afternoon from their nearby rivals, the Mallards were scheduled to board a sleeper bus at 11:30 p.m. Wednesday bound for Friday's and Saturday's games in South Dakota.
"It's a big series for us to keep this momentum going,'' Ruskowski said. "I saw a lot of good things happen (Wednesday). We've just got to be `Road Warriors' right now, and do whatever we have to do to get points.''
To get the two-point win Wednesday, the Mallards benefited from Murray's play in net, a solid defensive effort around him, and a successful change to a heretofore anemic power play. The Mallards also held in check aBloomington bunch that was coming off a franchise-high eight-goal win over the weekend, and scored seven times on the Mallards in their last meeting Nov. 25.
"It was a good win, and here's the reason why, our penalty killing unit allowed two power-play goals, but stopped five other (man-advantage) chances,'' said Ruskowski."To hold down a team like that was just super. We didn't allow any odd-man rushes. Our coverage was good. We played really well defensively.''
The Mallards also battled back from a contested Bloomington goal, which Ruskowski called "human error'' on the part of on-ice officials, who awarded the score with four-tenths of a second remaining in the first period.
Mike Hellyer and Matt Duffy played the biggest roles in the comeback.
Duffy had a pair of assists -- on Perdicaro's game-winner and Mickey Lang's insurance score -- after Hellyer's power-play goal gave QC a 2-1 lead midway through the second period.
Hellyer and Lang also assisted on QC's first score, a Matt Boyd rebound in the middle frame.
The man-advantage goal was QC's second since snapping an 0-for-34 power-play drought in a Sunday setback.The Flock remains last in the league on the power play at 7.8 percent (6-for-77)
"We'd been struggling there, but hopefully we have it on track now by simplifying things, by just making sure we get a lot of traffic in front and we're just taking shots,'' Ruskowski said. "That traffic creates deflections and rebounds. We had three or four more good chances to score (Wednesday) and just didn't.''
Bloomington had chances, too, including a game-ending power-play that came about when QC's Bob Preece was whistled for cross-checking with 48 seconds remaining.
But even though the Blaze pulled goalie Dan Dunn for another attacker, Lang managed to get Duffy's defensive deflection, and dumped his league-leading third short-handed goal into an empty-netwith two seconds left to hold off the threat.
"We need to be smarter than that, and think about the team first, not the individual battle,'' Ruskowski said about the late penalty. "That put us in a tough situation, but to the credit of our guys, they stepped up and had their teammate's back, and came up with another big stop.''
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