Posted Online: March 23, 2013, 10:56 pm
Mallards lock in playoff seed
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BLOOMINGTON -- Mike Stinziani was overlooked in this past week's voting for the CHL's All-Rookie Team.
However, there was no missing the Quad City Mallards' first-year flash in Saturday's 4-2 win at Bloomington's U.S. Cellular Coliseum.
Stinziani scored a pair of goals for the second time this month, and the Flock (33-26-6, 72 points) won for just the third time in 10 visits this season to their neighboring rivals.
QC's 10th win in 12 March games also locked up the No. 6 seed for the upcoming playoffs, regardless of the outcomes of Saturday's regular-season finales for the pursuing pair of Denver (at Rapid City) and Arizona (hosting Fort Worth).
After hosting already-eliminated Bloomington (28-35-2, 58 points) in today's 4:05 p.m. regular-season finale, the Mallards will travel to Fort Worth for next weekend's first round of the CHL playoffs.
Fort Worth (36-21-8, 80 points) settled for third when Wichita (38-19-8, 84 points) secured no worse than second place with a 5-2 win at last-place Tulsa.
"Considering where we started, we'll gladly accept sixth place,'' said QC coach Terry Ruskowski, whose club started both training camp and the season late, only playing when the CHL and arena took over in the wake of an ownership transfer gone wrong."We're going to have to figure out a way to win there, where the Brahmas own the league's second-best home record (20-6-7), but that's a whole lot better than the alternative'' of not making the playoffs.
The CHL won't release official playoff dates until Monday, but Ruskowski's team is preparing to play the first two games of the best-of-seven series Thursday and Saturday in Texas.
Rumored home dates for QC are Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, the first week of April.
"Counting (today), we'll have played 11 games in the season's last 17 days, so we need a rest,'' said Ruskowski, already giving his team a day off Monday.
Ruskowski also decided to leave 18-year veteran Shayne Toporowski home Saturday, while QC scoring leader Mickey Lang played only three shifts. CHL Goaltender of the Week John Murray also got a much-needed break.
"We'll have two more (skaters) sitting out (today),'' Ruskowski said.
Stinziani showed no need for a break, using his speed to score the first-period equalizer on an unassisted breakaway.
Stinziani then offered the eventual game-winner by crashing the net and knocking in a nifty backhanded rebound for a 3-2 lead in the second frame.
Stinziani now boasts 26 goals and 51 points, second-best in both categories among rookies.
"No question, he should have been on the All-Rookie Team, and he showed it again,'' Ruskowski said, with Stinziani scoring 12 points in 12 March games. "He's really had a great season.''
Gabriel Boutin-Gagnon and Jason Dixon also scored for QC, the latter an empty-net goal with 78 seconds remaining after Bloomington pulled goalie Pier-Olivier Pelletier for the extra attacker.
QC rookie backstop Neil Conway also turned away 31 shots and earned praise from his coach.
"He was outstanding in the third period making great save after great save,'' Ruskowski said. "And, to allow only two goals to these guys, especially at home, where they score at will, is really saying something.''