INDEPENDENCE, Mo. -- The Quad City Mallards didn't need a shootout to shoot up the Central Hockey League standings this time.|
A week after winning in sudden-death at Missouri, and coming in with back-to-back shootout wins, the Flock extended their winning streak to a season-high-tying three games Friday with a 7-2 explosion at the Mavericks' Independence Events Center.
The Mallards (26-24-6, 58 points) scored four goals in an 8 1/2-minute stretch of the first period to help extend their lead to four points on rival Bloomington (26-28-2, 54 points) for the Double-A circuit's eighth and final playoff spot with 10 regular-season games remaining for both clubs.
Bloomington, the Sunday visitor for the Flock, lost 2-1 Friday at Tulsa and is idle tonight, meaning the Mallards have a chance tonight to extend their lead and climb closer to sixth-place Missouri (29-22-6, 63 points) with a season-best fourth straight victory tonight.
Missouri visits the Mallards tonight for a 7:05 p.m. faceoff tonight at the i wireless Center.
"Everything worked out for us except Arizona,'' salvaging a point Friday night in a 4-3 shootout loss in a comeback at Fort Worth, QC coach Terry Ruskowski said.
Arizona (27-26-6, 60 points) remained two points ahead of QC for the CHL's seventh spot, but QC has played three fewer games so far.
"It would have been a long trip home if we came in here and got beat,'' Ruskowski said. "Instead, we're ahead of the game now, and we're playing with a lot of confidence.''
The Mallards only took 21 shots on goal -- 10 of them in the opening 20 minutes -- but scored their most goals since a season-best 9-6 victory Feb. 8 against Bloomington.Before Friday, the Flock had only 27 goals in the 12 games since then.
"I don't want to jinx it, but we've been feast or famine this season,'' Ruskowski said. "Hopefully that's not the case (tonight). Hopefully we can keep them from scoring. They have a great lineup. They have three great lines. I'm sure they're going to explode on somebody soon. Hopefully it's not us.''
Instead, QC scoring leader Mickey Lang tallied the middle of QC's first-period goals, 2 1/2-minutes apart, each on assists by Obi Aduba, who scored the Flock's first goal on a power-play with only 5:59 gone.
"The first power-play was bam-bam, and then we added another goal, and that really got our confidence going,'' Ruskowski said. "Then the more they pressed, the more it seemed we were open.''
CHL rookie scoring leader Mike Hellyer, fellow rookie Mike Stinziani and defensemen Mitch McColm and Matt Boyd also scored for QC.
Hellyer's unassisted score gave the Mallards a 4-0 lead, and marked the 50th point and 20th goal of the season for the CHL Rookie of the Year candidate.
Stinziani and McColm added unanswered scores in the second period, to push QC's lead to 6-1.
Boyd's short-handed empty-netter with 2:55 remaining came after Missouri pulled backup goalie Mathieu Corbeil, who relieved 20-win starter Mike Clemente after the early onslaught.
"The second period they really came at us,'' Ruskowski said. "But when Stinziani took it to the net there, that was the back-breaker. It was like, `Uh-oh. We're not coming back.'''
Goal-scorers Aduba (3), Lang (2) and Boyd (2) were joined in the two-or-more points category by Shayne Toporowski and Jason Dixon (2 each).
QC goalie Neil Conway also turned away 34 of Missouri's 36 shots.
"Neil just played steady again,'' Ruskowski said, noting John Murray gets the start in net tonight. "He's not making unbelievable saves. He's just playing fundamentally solid and consistent.
"The change (tonight) is all about traveling 5 1/2 hours to get here, and 5 1/2 hours to get back. We have a fresh goalie, so why not use him (tonight)?''