BLOOMINGTON -- Sharing a secret the other day in practice helped the Quad City Mallards answer a nagging question Thursday night.|
With rookie Mike Stinziani becoming the first Mallard to score a hat trick this season, the Flock found a way to win at Bloomington's U.S. Cellular Coliseum.
The 5-2 decision over the Central Hockey League's scoring leaders successfully started a three-games-in-three-nights stretch against QC's two biggest rivals.
Besides gaining some much-needed momentum against the Blaze (17-15-1, 35 points), the victory allowed QC (15-15-4, 34 points) to move into a tie with Arizona for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Double-A circuit.
Bloomington had beaten QC in four of six meetings this season before Thursday.
"We really played well,'' QC coach Terry Ruskowski said. "It was nice to see the guys play as hard as they did. It's nice to know we can beat these guys, because we're going to be seeing a lot more of them from here on out (in the season's second half).''
The Mallards face Bloomington and Saturday foe Missouri 20 more times in the season's final 32 games. Half of those contests are on the road for QC, five of those visits to Bloomington, including tonight's rematch with the Blaze.
"We outscored them (Thursday),'' Ruskowski said, noting the Blaze just missed goals on several occasions. "We hope to do the same (tonight), but it's so hard to win back-to-back games on the road.
"But we can't be satisfied with a good start (to this road trip). We've got to start putting some games together. We've got to start climbing that ladder and making up some ground in the playoff fight.''
Stinziani got that challenge off to a good start, netting a goal in each of the three periods.
The first, off assists from Mickey Lang and Mitch McColm, staked the Mallards to a 2-0 lead only 8:36 into the game.
The rookie's second score was unassisted, 1:31 into the second period for a 3-1 lead by the visitors.
The third goal, what Ruskowski called "the killer'' to Bloomington's comeback chances, was QC's league-leading sixth short-handed score.
Derek Matheson had the helper with 5:23 gone in the final period for a 4-2 QC lead.
"It's funny, we talked in practice (Wednesday) after the shootout loss,'' Ruskowski said. "I told the guys, when I was playing for (the NHL's) Chicago (Blackhawks), we played a lot of games like the shootout in practice, and I did really well in them because goalies hate when you shoot low to their stick side. So what does he do on the short-handed goal? I told him later, `It's nice to know you're listening.'''
Stinziani's entire line with Lang and fellow rookie Mike Hellyer drew praise from Ruskowski.Lang, QC's scoring leader, finished with two assists. Hellyer, one of the CHL's top-scoring rookies along with Stinziani, added a goal.
Anthony Perdicaro also had a third-period goal for QC, and Neil Conway turned away 24 of 26 shots, making several good saves, according to his coach.
"Neil's playing well. He's been very consistent for us, so he'll probably get the start (tonight), too,'' Ruskowski said. "We've got to get him as many minutes as he can handle while he's hot.''
Signing: Before the game, the Mallards replaced ECHL-departed Brett Robinson, one of more than a half-dozen CHL players making moves this week in the wake of the NHL lockout getting settled Sunday.
The Flock's roster returned to full strength by signing defensemen Gabriel Boutin-Gagnon, the Southern Professional Hockey League's leader with 124 penalty minutes this season for Pensacola.Boutin-Gagnon, who turns 23 on Monday, also had two goals and three assists in 25 games with the Ice Flyers. This is the Canadian's second professional season, and first stint above Class A.
"Gabriel is a guy who can provide a physical presence and add toughness to our lineup," Ruskowski said. "He's a young player who's shown a willingness to work hard, take the body and stand up for his teammates, which is an important role on any successful team."
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