Originally Posted Online: Jan. 29, 2013, 10:46 pm
Last Updated: Jan. 30, 2013, 8:55 am

Another offensive explosion keys Mallards

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Steve Tappa, stappa@qconline.com

Photo: Submitted
Patrik Levesque, Quad City Mallards.
Photo: Submitted
Neil Conway, QC Mallards.

John Murray was named the CHLs Goaltender of the Week earlier Tuesday.Yet, the Quad City Mallards hardly needed their red-hot netminder to knockoff circuit scoring leader Bloomington.

The Flock enjoyed a season-best offensive outburst for the second straight home game, and Murray's co-starter Neil Conway turned away 35 shots in QC's 8-2 blasting of the rival Blaze at Moline's i wireless Center.

The decisive victory allowed the Mallards (18-18-5, 41 points) to move within a point of idle Arizona for the eighth and final playoff spot in their Double-A league.

In their last home game Jan. 19, the Mallards set their previous season-high in a 7-1 win over Denver. QC also scored a 5-0 victory in a split last weekend at Arizona.

"I don't know where the offense is coming from,'' said QC coach Terry Ruskowski, whose Mallards ranked among the league's lowest scoring teams earlier this month. "We are starting to shoot the puck more and go to the net more.

"But (with QC getting outshot 37-26) it's the opposite of Murphy's Law tonight. Whatever could go right did go right for us. It's not going to happen very often, but it sure is nice to have these games once in awhile.''

Instead of Murray, Ruskowski started his red-hot rookie Conway, himself a CHL Goalie of the Week earlier this month.

Conway was up to the challenge, turning away six of seven power-play opportunities and a penalty shot by Bloomington (22-17-2, 46 points).

The penalty shot came in the second period, with the fourth-place Blaze threatening to tie a back-and-forth contest at 3.

"We have a deal now, if you win, you keep on playing,'' said Ruskowski, whose club visits Missouri on Saturday. "I told John, it was unfortunate for him because he played outstanding last weekend. But we made a deal and I want to have that friendly competition between the two goalies.

"I said to Conway, `Do you think you can play the rest of the season?' He'd love to do that, and John would love him to do that, too, because it means we win every game left.''

Eight different Mallards scored goals, ranging from Mickey Lang's team-leading 23rd to Jason Dixon's third in a team-leading 41 games this season.

Patrik Levesque also netted the 100th goal of his career, as the Mallards scored thrice in both the first and second periods to build a 6-2 lead.

"It's a fun accomplishment,'' Levesque said. "When you're young and hoping to play pro hockey, it's a dream come true.

"Making that happen in the Quad Cities, which is my (offseason) home now, in front of the best fans in hockey, makes this all the more exceptional. What an honor to score in front of my friends and buddies.''

All but three of QC's 15 skaters scored points, for a whopping plus-29 margin, led by three each from Levesque, Obi Adua and Mike Hellyer.

Aduba and Hellyer also ranked among the goal-scorers with Mike Stinziani, Matt Boyd and Anthony Perdicaro.

"That's how you have to do it,'' Levesque said of the balanced scoring attack. "In the playoffs, the more every line can produce, the better your chances of winning.

"It's good to do it against (Bloomington), too. We play them 10 more times, with 25 games left, so these are big points for us.''

Murray's award, for allowing three goals in last weekend's three-point trip to Arizona, is the third of the season for a QC goalie.

Murray's current (Conway on Jan. 1) and former (Joe Palmer on Oct. 30) netmates were previously honored.

Murray's also the second Mallard in as many weeks to pick up a league award, with Mickey Lang named the CHL's Player of the Week last Tuesday.

Last weekend, Murray stopped 68 of 70 shots, posting his first shutout before losing in a shootout on the road.