Dead Ducks? Not yet: Mallards mull tall task of overcoming 3-0 series deficit

Originally Posted Online: April 04, 2013, 8:58 pm
Last Updated: April 04, 2013, 9:02 pm
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By Steve Tappa,

Terry Ruskowski remembers winning the last three games of a playoff series, including Game 7 in overtime, to claim his first of two CHL championships.

In 18 seasons behind minor-league benches, the Quad City Mallards coach also recalls losing three straight playoff games in OT, and getting shutout in three straight contests in another series.

However, Ruskowksi never has overcome a 3-0 deficit in any series, dating back to his long playing career in the NHL.

"But there's always room for a first time,'' Ruskowski said ahead of Game 4 tonight at Moline's i wireless Center, with the Mallards staring at elimination, trailing Fort Worth 3-0 in a best-of-7, CHL first-round playoff series.

"I've been in a lot of scenarios. I've never done it myself, but it has been done and it can be done.''

Ruskowksi needs only to look into his team's dressing room for proof.

"I was on a team that was up 3-0 in juniors that a team came back to beat, so I've seen it happen,'' said Mallards captain Darren McMillan, a veteran of 23 playoff games in an eight-year pro career.

"It was a terrible feeling. We all thought, `We got this.' But then it just crumbled apart. All of a sudden we were in Game 7 wondering what happened. You just have to get one, and get them nervous, and instill a little doubt in them.''

That's the Mallards' game plan tonight: Respond to the pressure of facing elimination by putting some pressure back on the Brahmas by forcing Game 5 Saturday night, back at Moline's arena.

"We're not looking at 3-0. We're just looking at winning (tonight),'' said Shayne Toporowski, the most veteran of Mallards with 61 pro playoff games in 18 seasons. "If you look at 3-0, it's too big of a task. It's daunting. You can't make it all up in one shift.''

Yet, one shift can make a difference, with the last two playoff games decided in overtime.

If the Mallards had capitalized on scoring chances in both extra sessions, QC would own a 2-1 series lead and be thinking about closing out the Brahmas at home.

"We can beat this team,'' said QC scoring leader Mickey Lang. "We pushed them to overtime twice now, and we had two good scoring chances that just didn't go. Hopefully we're due for some fortunate bounces our way finally.''

In 108 years of pro playoff history, a website that tracks such statistics said a 3-0 deficit has been overcome just four times in Major League Baseball, the NHL and the NBA combined.

"Our backs are against the wall,'' Lang said, "but that's where they've been most of this season.

"It starts with our coach, on down to our captain and the other veteran guys in this room. They're humble and hard working and they know how to win. We just need to keep grinding.''

That's how history is forged.

"I'd be a fool if I suggested it was going to be easy to make that climb,'' Ruskowski said. "But if anybody's going to do it, this group can because they've proven to be so resilient this season.

"We weren't supposed to make the playoffs. We almost didn't start the season. So overcoming a 3-0 deficit? Why not? They've fought for everything. They've put in the hard work. They've shown their character, their willpower and their desire with all of the adversity we've faced.''

Indeed, the Mallards are a week removed from a league-best 11-2 regular-season finish in March, including eight straight home-ice wins and five straight victories overall to end the campaign.

"Now's the time to do it again,'' McMillan said. "We've gone through this turbelence before. We just have to keep fighting. We have to have everybody pulling the rope in the same direction.

"If we win the little battles, we'll win the war. We just have to get back to getting pucks and bodies to the net. That's how we've scored goals this season. It hasn't been pretty, but we have to get rebounds and deflections -- second, third and fourth efforts to do what you have to get done.''

Game 4: Fort Worth at QC Mallards

Tonight: 7:05 at Moline's i wireless Center.

Radio: WFXN-AM 1230 & Webcast: (pay-per-view CHL TV). Twitter updates: @SteveTappa_DA.

Special: A pregame party in the parking lot features live music from the Fry Daddies, a beer garden and a cookout. The event is free and open to the public from 5-6:30 p.m.

Giveaway: Fans receive green Mallards rally towels free while supplies last, courtesy of Genesis Health System.

Discounts: Fans who wear green to any Mallards home playoff game save $2 on adult tickets purchased at the arena box office. Beers are $2 at the concession stands during the playoffs.

News: Fort Worth forward Colby Pridham, helped off the ice bleeding, from an inadvertent skate to the leg Wednesday, had successful surgery later that night, and will be in a cast recovering from the injury for the next three months, QC coach Terry Ruskowski was told Thursday by Brahmas officials.

Notes: The Bramhas boast four former Mallards. Defensemen Jared Lavender and Tyler Amburgey both played for QC this season. Forward John Snowden and backup goalie Brad Fogal were with the Flock last season. ... Fort Worth remains the least-penalized team in the CHL playoffs with 22 penalty minutes compared to 58 for QC. ... The Mallards are a CHL-worst 0-for-6 on the power play in this series, while Fort Worth is a league-best 4-for-14 (28.6 success rate) with one shorthanded goal, too. ... QC captain Darren McMillan has a team-leading 3 points in this series after scoring 17 points (and 6 goals) in the regular season. ... QC scoring leader Mickey Lang (43 goals now) has scored in the last two playoffs games, and 14 of his last 15 games overall. ... QC's only win in seven tries this season against the Texans came March 3, in a 3-2 shootout decision at Moline's arena.

Next: The Mallards host Game 5, if necessary, Saturday night.


Local events heading

  Today is Monday, Oct. 20, the 293rd day of 2014. There are 72 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: The store of Devoe and Crampton was entered and robbed of about $500 worth of gold pens and pocket cutlery last night.
1889 -- 125 years ago: Michael Malloy was named president of the Tri-City Stone Cutters Union.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Dewitte C. Poole, former Moline newspaperman serving as vice consul general for the United States government in Paris, declared in a letter to friends that the once gay Paris is a city of sadness and desolation.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Plans for the construction of an $80,000 wholesale bakery at 2011 4th Ave. were announced by Harry and Nick Coin, of Rock Island. It is to be known as the Banquet Bakery.
1964 -- 50 years ago: An application has been filed for a state permit to organize a savings and loan association in Moline, it was announced. The applicants are Ben Butterworth, A.B. Lundahl, C. Richard Evans, John Harris, George Crampton and William Getz, all of Moline, Charles Roberts, Rock Island, and Charles Johnson, of Hampton.
1989 -- 25 years ago: Indian summer is quickly disappearing as temperatures slide into the 40s and 50s this week. Last week, highs were in the 80s.

(More History)