After hoisting a banner to the rafters Friday night, the Quad City Mallards raised the roof at the i wireless Center.|
The Flock earned several standing ovations by socking a two-game losing skid with a hard-fought, 5-3 comeback victory over the Central Hockey League's third-place Denver Cutthroats.
The upset offered the perfect finish to a night highlighted by the Mallards retiring the No. 18 of QC's all-time goal-scoring leader Glenn Stewart.
The 25-minute pre-game ceremony included several speakers and a video montage, hailing Stewart's 218-goal, 429-point four-season QC career.
With Stewart, the Mallards qualified for four league finals, winning a pair in 1997 and '98. Stewart joins former teammates Kerry Toporowski (77), Mark McFarlane (22) and Steve Gibson (55) in having their numbers hang high above the Mallards' home rink.
"My feeling is we should do Stewie again next game,'' QC coach Terry Ruskowski joked after the latter-day Mallards closed a week-long tour of the league's top three teams at 2-2-0."Even in his jersey retirement, I think Stewie scored a goal for us. It was a nice, big moment, and our guys responded.''
Just as significantly, the Mallards rebounded after getting blown out earlier in the week by CHL leaders Allen (4-0) and Wichita (5-1), the latter just two days earlier at the i-wi.
"The guys really paid attention in our 7:30 a.m. video review session (Thursday),'' Ruskowski said, pointing to the pre-practice punishment after the Wichita whipping."There was no chirping and laughing. They watched and saw where we were out of position the other night. Seeing themselves making the same mistakes over and over again, I hope they learned from that.''
The Mallards certainly showed much more effort Friday.
"We were more physical, too,'' Ruskowski said, pointing to an early fight by Jason Kostadine and a series of helmet-rattling hits by Anthony Perdicaro."We had some good hits right off the bat. We were much more aggressive than we were earlier this week. We weren't going to be intimidated again.''
Brett Robinson (4 points), Kerry Toporowski's brother Shayne (3 points) and Matt Duffy (2 points) also highlighted multi-point games with goals.
Those three had combined for just 11 goals in the previous 31 games for the ninth-place Mallards (14-15-3, 31 points). The multi-point game was the first in a Mallards uniform for Toporowski.
"That's how he's got to play for us,'' Ruskowski said of the younger Toporowski, a Triple-A veteran with an NHL cup of coffee. "Robinson played well, too. A lot of guys played well.''
And yet, Denver (18-12-3, 39 points) took the early lead, and kept answering QC's comeback attempts into the second period.
But 14 seconds after the Cutthroats took a 3-2 lead, Robinson stripped Denver standout Troy Schwab in front of his own goal, and punched in the final equalizer.
"That was huge,'' said Ruskowski, one of the CHL's winningest coaches. "Momentum was back and forth, it was like a tennis match, but when Robinson scored, the bench erupted.
"That line of theirs is unbelievable. Schwab, (Brad) Smyth and (A.J.) Gale. Holy smokes, man, they move the puck better than anybody else I've seen in this league all season. So to get something like that off them was a huge momentum swing.''
The Mallards followed by adding second-period goals by Duffy and Mickey Lang against Denver goalie Kent Patterson, fresh from being named the CHL's Goalie and Rookie of the Month award winner.
"The second period, I thought, was our best period of the year,'' Ruskowski said. "We actually controlled the puck and made good passes. And, we weren't just dumping it in, we were hitting our forwards and they were jumping to the net.''
The CHL's worst power play also scored twice on three attempts, with Lang's and Toporowski's scores coming on man-advantages.
Defensemen Derek Matheson also scored a first-period goal for the Mallards, who don't play again until hosting Arizona on Tuesday. QC gets today off from practice with the Harlem Globetrotters in town.
"It was a good win,'' Ruskowski said. "We needed this to get off the schneid.''