MOLINE -- Thomas Frazee is a week removed from a stint on the Injured Reserve list.|
"It's still a little sore,'' the Quad City Mallards rookie reported, looking down at his left hand, "but it feels better when we get two (standings points).''
Indeed, winning cured a lot of the Flock's ills Friday, two nights after a closed-door, post-game, team-meeting and some raw searching-for-answers feelings in QC's locker room.
Frazee scored a pair of first-period goals, and linemate Jeff Lee added a 4-on-3 power-play goal in the third frame as the Flock snapped a three-game losing streak, 5-3 over Arizona, in the first of two crucial weekend showdowns for playoff positioning at Moline's iWireless Center.
The victory pushed the Mallards (27-18-8, 62 points) into sixth-place in a tightly-packed CHL, a win out of fifth, one point now ahead of seventh, and three points in front of Arizona (26-25-6, 58 points), which currently holds the last playoff spot in the Double-A circuit.
The Flock also moved 12 standings points within clinching a playoff berth on idle Wichita (23-27-5, 51 points).
"All of the pressure was on us,'' QC coach Terry Ruskowski said, with the struggling Mallards hosting a shorthanded foe, because of injuries and illnesses, in the fourth contest of a season-long seven-game homestand. "We hadn't beaten them (in three previous tries) this season. But we had to win the game. No ifs, ands or buts.''
The Flock turned their recent frown upside down, thanks in part to a fast start, something that's been missing of late for the Mallards.
"It was huge to get a lead on'' Arizona's red-hot goalie, Andrew Engelage, Frazee said. "To be honest, our start was not very good. They out-shot us 6-or-7 to 1, but when I tipped in that first shot, that's when the ball started rolling for us.
"Coming down the stretch, we're not going to be winning games 5-4 or 6-5. This is playoff hockey. So it's huge to get on the board first, get the crowd into it, and we just calmed down after that and just played hockey.''
Frazee now has five goals in the last three games since coming off the IR. Linemate Lee has eight points in the last three starts.
"It's easy to play with guys who work hard,'' Frazee said of Lee and Nick Grasso. "We all do that and we all feed off each other.''
The hardest-working and biggest goal of the night, though, might have been Justin Fox tipping in a rebound early in the third period for a 4-2 Mallards lead. The score was Fox's third in nine days.
"We were getting traffic in front of the net all night,'' Fox said. "I was just waiting for an opportunity and luckily it came at the right time. This is what we've been searching for the last few weeks. We got a lead and we finished it, which is something we haven't done a lot of lately.''
Gergo Nagy also added his first goal since returning from a Triple-A call-up.
Frazee and Lee each had three points, Nicholas Rioux added a pair of third-period assists, and 10 Mallards skaters figured in the scoring.
"This was a good team effort. Everybody came to play,'' Fox said. "Winning puts a smile on everyone's face. It takes a little weight off the shoulders and puts a little more space between us and them. This gives us a little confidence, which is huge down the stretch.''
Ty Rimmer got the win in goal for QC, assuring starting again tonight, with Ruskowski turning to a make-it, take-it process in selecting between Rimmer and co-starter Thomas Heemskerk.
"Momentum carried us a little farther this time,'' Ruskowski said. "We still made some (defensive) errors when they scored and I'm still not happy with that. It's got to be corrected.''
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