Turns out, the Quad City Mallards turned back the clock 24 hours too early this weekend.|
A night after wearing throwback jerseys to mark the 15th anniversary of back-to-back league champs, the Flock did their best impression of those title teams by demolishing Denver, 7-1 Saturday night in front of a sellout crowd at the i wireless Center.
The 9,347 fans for John Deere Employees Night marked the Mallards' first capacity crowd in exactly 10 years, with the Greenheads drawing 9,594 on Jan. 19, 2003.
Coupled with the 4,032 spectators from Friday night, the Mallards also enjoyed their largest attendance on consecutive nights in nearly nine years. The 13,379 fans this weekend were the most since 14,950 fans on Feb. 23-24 in 2004.
The title-winning Mallards memorialized in Friday's jersey auction -- which raised $21,500 for the Genesis Flu-Free QC Program -- reguarly sold out the downtown Moline arena.
"A perfect night,'' Mallards coach Terry Ruskowski said about the action both on and off the ice."To perform like this in front of that kind of crowd? It was just a dream scenario.''
The Mallards "3M line'' of Mickey Lang and rookies Mike Stinziani and Mike Hellyer helped make for a perfect night on the ice.
Doing their best impressions of all-time Mallards goal-scoring greats Glenn Stewart and Steve Gibson, Lang and Stinziani each scored a natural hat trick.
"I've been in pro hockey a long time now, and I've never seen something like that,'' said Ruskowski, an NHL playing veteran and one of the winningest coaches in minor-league history.
"Me neither,'' seconded another minor-league fixture, new Mallards president Bob McNamara.
That line also accounted for an astounding 14 points with Lang adding three assists to his three goals, Stinziani chipping a helper to his hat trick and Hellyer accounting for four assists.
QC's best offensive output of the season allowed the Mallards (16-18-4, 36 points) to remain within two standing points of eighth-place Arizona for the final playoff spot in the CHL.
Denver, in the middle of a 12-game road trip to eat up all of its January schedule, dropped to sixth place (19-15-4, 42 points).
"(Jason) Kostadine replaced me for the last goal and got an assist,'' Lang said. "Right after, he came up to me and joked, `I would have had six points tonight, too, with that line.'''
Lang's hat trick was spread out over the first and second periods, with two of the scores coming from the league's worst power play.
Lang's first goal came 10 seconds after Denver's only score, on a power-play, too. Lang stole the puck away on the faceoff and cashed in unassisted.
"That was the turning point,'' Ruskowski said. "That got us right back in the game.
"It's funny; I made the mistake of splitting those guys up (Friday). I won't do that again, I'll tell you.''
Lang's first goal also got the Mallards momentum, with a huge throng behind them.
"Playing in front of a crowd like that really energized us,'' Lang said. "You could just feel the atmosphere in here. Hopefully we put on a good show. Hopefully those people will want to come back for another game and we can build this franchise up to the way it used to be.''
Stinziani's hat trick came in the third period, one also via a power play.
In all, there were 33 infractions for a total of 110 minutes, including four fights, two on the same skirmish. QC was whistled 15 times for 54 minutes.
"Our guys took care of business and cleared the way to let us do our thing,'' Lang said of the physical game. "The other line with (Jason) Dixon, (Shayne) Toporowski and (Matt Boyd) also did a great job shutting down a great line in (Denver's high-scoring A.J.) Gale, (Brad) Smyth and (Tony) Schwaub.''
Anthony Perdicaro also sandwiched a QC goal around Lang's and Stinziani's heroics.
Matt Duffy added a pair of assists for the Mallards, who travel to Arizona next weekend for a two-game battle for playoff position.