DENVER, Colo. -- The Quad City Mallards ended up spinning their wheels Saturday during a season-long, five-game road trip.|
A night after edging Denver on the 11th man in a sudden-death shootout, the Flock failed to keep that momentum rolling forward, falling 5-2 to the Cutthroats at the Denver Coliseum.
That's unfortunate, because Bloomington (25-25-2, 52 points) dropped a 6-4 decision at Rapid City (28-21-5, 61 points), keeping the Mallards (22-23-6, 50 points) from moving into a tie for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Central Hockey League.
Arizona (24-24-5, 53 points) beat Tulsa 3-1 late Saturday night to remain three standings points ahead of QC -- the same as before the weekend started, but now leapfrogging over Bloomington after the Blaze's second setback in as many nights to Rapid City.
Exactly a month remains in the regular season, with the Mallards scheduled to face arch-rival Bloomington seven times in the regular-season's final 15 games.
"It's too bad. It'd be nice to draw even with those guys one of these times,'' Mallards coach Terry Ruskowski said by cellphone, noting QC's many missed chances at doing just that over the last month. "But it seems like for every step we move forward, we're taking another step right back.''
Denver (26-21-7, 59 points) was partly to blame for that nasty two-step Saturday, never allowing the Flock to figure in this outcome.
"The Fish'' scored twice in the opening 12:53, and added two more unanswered goals in the second period for a 4-1 lead.
In between those four goals, the Mallards only score was by Obi Aduba, with Michael Monfredo and Friday night hero Anthony Perdicaro netting the helpers 84 seconds before the first intermission.
"We played so well Friday night,''lamented Ruskowski, whose club got a game-ting goal and two shootout scores from Perdicaro. "But we didn't move our feet or pass the puck (Saturday). We seemed tentative, waiting for things to happen.
"It's probably my fault. Because of the win, the long trip and us nursing a bunch of injuries, I gave them the morning off. I told them to save their legs. Just walk around for 10-15 minutes and eat at the hotel. I'm not going to make that mistake the rest of the way. We'll always have a skate the morning of a game.''
QC did cut the Denver lead in half early in the third period on Matt Duffy's goal.
But Denver iced the contest on Mikael Bedard's second goal of the game, with 2:21 remaining on a breakaway attempt against QC replacement Neil Conway.
John Murray got the start in goal for QC, but was pulled after the second period, trailing 4-1.
"We just decided to save Murray for the next game. Plus, he was cramping up a bit,'' Ruskowski said. "He was actually our only bright spot, making a bunch of great glove saves. He just couldn't hold them off himself.
"We played better in the third (period). We got into a couple of fights and really competed, but it was too little, too late.''
Triple-A tested Kieran Millan helped Denver score the weekend split, turning away 35 of 37 shots by QC.
Aduba finished with two points for the Flock. Denver's Troy Schwab (including a goal) and Adam Smyth joined Bedard in two-point nights for Denver.
QC's road swing continues Tuesday in Rapid City, S.D. The Mallards next host a game next Sunday, March 3.
"It was snowing so bad coming out here, there were times we couldn't see what was in front of us,'' said Ruskowski, whose club wallowed through one Midwestern blizzard to play this weekend. "We;re leaving right now, and it's snowing again, at the start of another big storm. So for us, I guess when it rains, it really pours.''
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