Originally Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2012, 9:13 pm
Last Updated: Oct. 25, 2012, 11:31 pm
Mallards open amid mountain of adversity
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By Steve Tappa, email@example.com
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Photo: Todd Welvaert|
Terry Ruskowski, new Quad City Mallards head coach, answers a few questions at a news conference Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012.
An underdog American team upsetting the world's greatest hockey power to win the 1980 Olympic Gold Medal forever will be known as "The Miracle on Ice.''However, new Quad City Mallards coach Terry Ruskowski hopes his CHL club can give those ice rink icons a run for their money this weekend.
"Hopefully we can pull off a couple of miracles,'' Ruskowski joked on the eve of a season-opening, 3-games-in-3-nights stretch for the Flock.
Not only are the Mallards playing a pair of established CHL powers starting tonight in Tulsa, the local minor-league franchise does so in one of the most-challenging set of circumstances imaginable.
Because of last-minute issues with a new ownership group, the Flock started training camp last Wednesday, nine days later than the rest of their 10-team, Double-A circuit.
The delay led to the cancellation of a pair of exhibition games, the postponement of last Friday's scheduled season-opener at Wichita, and ultimately an ownership takeover by the CHL on Tuesday.
During that drama, the Mallards also have been awaiting immigration clearance for five Canadian players.
That paperwork finally arrived Thursday, so those key additions are due in town by the time the Mallards return with Tulsa in tow for Saturday night's home opener.
QC also welcomes last season's league runner-up, Wichita, Sunday afternoon at Moline's i wireless Center.
"I'm preaching patience,'' said Ruskowski, twice a title-claiming coach in the CHL, and one of the 21-year-old league's all-time winningest bench bosses.
"We've been dealt a tough hand -- probably the most difficult situation I can imagine. We've only been working with some of these guys for a week. We had no exhibition games. We've had no chance to evaluate these players.
"We're nowhere close to a finished product. But trust and have faith in us, as we move down a bumpy road together, we've got some great character guys, and we're going to do everything in our power to be competitive and put a championship team together.''
Ruskowski said the ownership uncertainty and workout delays cost him five players he'd initially hoped to have in training camp competing for a job.
"I won't lie to my players, so I told them when we were going through this, it could go either way,'' said Ruskowski, a former captain of the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks.
"It could have gone dark, so it was up to them if they wanted to take a chance with me or not. Five guys decided not to wait and went somewhere else. I don't blame them a bit. Instead, it makes me admire the guys who stayed.
"They thought so much of this team, this community, the fans and the booster club, they showed they wanted to be here. So they deserve every opportunity to be a part of this club.''
Decisions are coming, though, with the CHL roster limit between 18 or 19 players, depending on how a team meets the league salary cap.
Not counting the late arrivals, the Mallards sit at 18 active players with Thursday's signing of high-scoring rookie forward Marcello Ranallo.
Cleared to join the Flock on Thursday were returning center Jeremy Boyer, fellow veteran right winger Mike Hellyer, hulking defenseman Mitch McColm and a pair of promising rookies in Mike Stinziani (forward) and Kurt Jory (goaltender).
"I don't know if they'll play,'' Ruskowski said. "They haven't practiced and I don't know what kind of shape they're in. But at least they're here finally.
"The guys that have been here have worked hard. We have a long way to go, though. So please be patient. We will get there.''
QC Mallards (0-0) at Tulsa (1-1)
Tonight: 7:35 at Tulsa's BOK Center.
Notes: QC won 2 of 3 meetings with the Oilers last season. ... A free audio webcast of the game is available at myqcmallards.com. ... CHL-TV also provides a pay-per-view internet service, with a link available at myqcmallards.com.
Next: QC opens at home Saturday night (Tulsa) and Sunday afternoon (Wichita).