For the Quad City Mallards, Friday night finally was about more than just the CHL standings.
With a playoff berth already assured heading into the final weekend of the regular season, the Mallards were focused on the stands instead, and letting 7,531 fans know their hometown team is postseason-ready.
"We were playing to give those people a reason to keep coming back,'' QC's Patrik Levesque said after a 6-3 win over neighboring rival Bloomington at Moline's i wireless Center.
"We love the big crowds. It makes it more exciting to play here. It's such a nice building, and when it's packed here, it's one of the best places to play in the league. If we keep winning, that's what the fans want.''
A seventh straight home victory also kept QC (32-26-6, 70 points) in sole possession of sixth place despite a 6-5 overtime win for chasing Denver (30-26-9, 69 points) at fourth-place securing Rapid City (34-24-7, 75 points).
Another QC pursuer, Arizona (31-27-7, 69 points), defeated third-place Fort Worth, 3-0.
Despite QC's win, Missouri (34-24-6, 74 points) secured no worse than fifth place by trouncing last-place Tulsa, 5-1.
Even if Missouri loses its last two, and QC completes a weekend sweep of Bloomington tonight and Sunday, the Mallards lose out on a tiebreaker, most non-shootout wins.
Six of QC's victories have come in the shootout this season, compared to three for Missouri.
"We just have to keep it rolling into the playoffs,'' said Levesque, who had a goal and an assist in the first period to get the Flock off to a flying start.
"Now we're smelling it. Now we know we can do it. We can go far. We're not scared of playing Fort Worth or (the league-leading pair of) Allen or Wichita. We can beat anybody.''
QC's veterans are especially playing well of late, allowing the Mallards to win 9 of 11 games thus far in March.
Besides Levesque, veterans Shayne Toporowski, Jason Kostadine and Darren McMillan also scored to help QC build a 5-1 second-period lead on the playoff-eliminated Blaze.
"All of the old guys are doing something,'' said QC scoring leader Mickey Lang. "Everybody is doing their thing out there.''
Levesque now has seven points (three goals) since returning from a month-long Injured Reserve stint last weekend.
Mallards captain McMillan also has 7 points (4 goals) so far in March.
Kostadine, who has three goals this season, and 11 in his three-year Mallards career, scored his second goal in as many games, and third straight game with a point.
Toporowski, the most veteran of Mallards with 18 pro seasons, improved to 12 points (5 goals) in QC's last 13 games.
"It's good to see those guys play well,'' QC coach Terry Ruskowski said. "Lang and the two rookies (Mike Stinziani and CHL Rookie of the Year Mike Hellyer) did so much for us this season, but it's time for those veterans to take over.''
Lang scored again, too, as QC added two goals in a 19-second span of the second period, bookending a change in net by Bloomington.
The CHL MVP candidate became the fifth Mallard to 40 goals in a season since the 1999-00 UHL runners-up had three such scorers.
Lang also moved within a goal of tying former teammate Brandon Marino's CHL MVP-winning 41 scores last season.
Matt Boyd (goal, two assits) and Anthony Perdicaro (two assists) also joined Lang, Levesque and Stinziani (two assists) in multi-point nights.
"If I get there, I will be in great company, because he was a great player, great guy and great teammate,'' said Lang, who will be limited to power-play duty tonight and Sunday.
Ruskowski also plans to rest Toporowski and CHL Goaltender of the Week John Murray, who made 33 of 36 saves Friday.
The Mallards also started selling playoff tickets Friday night, though dates and an opponent won't be determined until after Sunday's final day of regular-season action.
The Flock will play at least two, if not three home games in the best-of-seven opening round, which should start on the road next weekend.
Notes: Despite scoring a goal for the 11th time in last 10 games, Lang actually fell five goals behind CHL scoring leader A.J. Gale, with the Denver sniper scoring four times Friday, including the game-winner. ... Newcomer Matt Carlson, signed Thursday out of the college ranks, got his first assist on Toporowski's goal. ... Earlier in the day, QC's Matt Duffy lost out to Wichita's high-scoring Kevin Young for CHL Defenseman of the Year honors. Also announced Friday: Allen's Aaron Dell, a runner-up to Hellyer for Rookie honors, won Goaltender of the Year honors. ... Friday's crowd was QC's second-largest of the season, despite Iowa and Iowa State in tournament basketball action. The 7,531 follows a Jan. 19 sellout of 9,347, also powered by game sponsor John Deere, and allowed the Mallards to attract 7,000 fans twice in the same campaign for the first time since the 2003-04 season.
Today is Tuesday, July 22, the 203rd day of 2014. There are 162 days left in the year.
1864 -- 150 years ago: Everybody is invited to go on a moonlight excursion next Monday evening on the steamer New Boston. The trip will be from Davenport to Muscatine and back. 1889 -- 125 years ago: The mayor and bridge committee let a contract to the Clinton Bridge company for a $1,125 iron bridge across Sears canal near Milan. 1914 -- 100 years ago: Injunction proceedings to compel the Central Association to keep a baseball team in Rock Island for the remainder of the season were contemplated by some of the Rock Island fans, but they decided to defer action. 1939 -- 75 years ago: The first of the new and more powerful diesel engines built for the Rock Island Lines for the proposed Chicago-Denver run, passed thru the Tri-Cities this morning. 1964 -- 50 years ago: The Rock Island Rescue Mission is negotiating for the purchase of the Prince Hall Masonic Home located at 37th Avenue and 5th Street, Rock Island. 1989 -- 25 years ago: Quad Cities Container Terminal is being lauded as a giant business boon that will save several days and hundreds of dollars on each goods shipment to the coasts. The Quad Cities Container Terminal is the final piece of the puzzle that opens up increase access to world markets, Robert Goldstein said.