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 Thursday, April 24, the 114th day of 2014. There are 251 days left in the year.
1864 -- 150 years ago: We learn that it is a contemplation to start a paper mill in Rock Island during the summer by a gentleman from the East. 1889 -- 125 years ago: The gates of Oklahoma were swung open at noon today, and a throng of more than 30,000 settlers started over its soil. 1914 -- 100 years ago: The Iowa Coliseum Co. was incorporated with $40,000 capital and planned a building on 4th Street between Warren and Green streets in Davenport. 1939 -- 75 years ago: Plans are being discussed for resurfacing the streets in the entire downtown district of Rock Island. 1964 -- 50 years ago: Some 45 jobs will be created at J.I. Case Co.'s Rock Island plant in a expansion of operations announced yesterday afternoon at the firm's headquarters in Racine, Wis. 1989 -- 25 years ago: Gardeners and farmers cheered, but not all Quad-Citians found joy Saturday as more than an inch of rain fell on the area. Motorists faced dangerous, rain-slick roads as the water activated grease and grime that had built up during dry weather.