It's safe to say the Quad City Mallards are on a hot streak.|
The Flock has won three of their last four after losing six-of-seven, showing resilience similar to what they needed Friday night in squeaking out a 5-4 win over last-place Tulsa at Moline's i wireless Center.
Behind a pair of goals from Mickey Lang, QC picked up two very important points as they keep pace in the Central Hockey League playoff race. The Mallards trail Arizona by a point, nearing the halfway point of the season, but have played two fewer games than the Sundogs.
If the postseason started today, QC and Tulsa would be the only teams left on the sidelines after the 10-team circuit's regular season.
It's hard to believe five goals were just enough, especially after how hot the Mallards lookied in the second period.
After a scoreless first frame, QC put three goals on the board in the opening 8:30 of the second stanza. Looking like the game was in hand, a nice holiday crowd relaxed, only to see Tulsa chip away and score the game-tying goal with 10 seconds left in the period.
"I snapped," QC coach Terry Ruskowski said. "That's totally unacceptable if we want to be considered contenders instead of pretenders."
The Mallards got that message, storming back out to a 5-3 lead less than four minutes into the third period.
Lang scored the game-winner, his second power-play goal of the night, also showing an increased proficiency in the team's extra man output.
The Mallards remain last in the league on the power play with a 9.92 success rate. However, the Flock has converted five times now in the last five games for 9 goals in 85 chances.
"I showed them the tape of the last game and how we played the power plays," said Ruskowski, who moved within a win of 600 for his 18-year coaching career. "We had good, quick passes. We faked shots. We just played solid."
The Mallards gave up another goal midway through the third period, but the defense put the clamps down and John Murray picked up his seventh win of the season in the crease.
"A game like this shows what kind of character we have," said Lang, who got top-star honors. "We all beared down."
Lang stays in the top 10 of the league for scoring with his 27 points this season and is tied for third with 15 goals on the year.
With the club's rematched tonight at the i-wi, the right team is in town for scoring, as Tulsa has given up a league-high 113 goals this season. No other CHL club has given up 90.
"Absolutely these are must-wins," said Mike Stinziani, who assisted on two of the Mallards goals. "In this league, anyone can win on any night. This league is just really tight. With a couple wins, we could jump as high as third."
Only seven points separate the Mallards from third place, and with the CHL's basement-dweller back at the i-wi tonight, the time is now to keep making up ground.
"We weren't as sharp as we should've been," Ruskowski said. "We gave up way too many goal scoring opportunities.
"When they made the comeback, I could just see it unraveling. I could feel it in my gut, and I was saying, 'oh my goodness.'"
Ruskowski's intermissions charge was understood by The Flock.
"I don't blame him for being upset," Lang said. "When you get a three-goal lead you have to stick the fork in them."