Originally Posted Online: April 03, 2013, 11:28 pm
Last Updated: April 03, 2013, 11:58 pm

More overtime heartbreak for Mallards; 'UnderDucks' in a 3-0 playoff hole

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By Steve Tappa, stappa@qconline.com

More photos from this shoot
Photo: John Greenwood
Quad City Mallards Mickey Lang surges towards teammate Anthony Perdicaro after he tied the score at 1-1 against Fort Worth in the second period of play-off action Wednesday evening. Brahmas goalie Kristofer Westblom was unable to block the shot.
More photos from this shoot
Photo: John Greenwood
Quad City Mallards Shayne Topotowski is unable to slide the puck past Fort Worth goalie Kristofer Westblom in the first period of play-off action Wednesday evening at the i wireless Center. The Mallards did tie the game 1-1 in the second period.

Another overtime playoff game, another heartbreaking finish for the Quad City Mallards.

For the second straight contest, the Flock fell to Fort Worth, 3-2 in sudden death in the first round of the CHL postseason.

However, Wednesday's Game 3 decision hurt even more than last Saturday's setback, putting the Mallards on death row and facing elimination, down 3-0 in the best-of-7 series.

Instead of scoring the game-winner this time, former Mallards forward John Snowden merely helped dig the dagger deeper into his old friends, with an assist on Colin Mulvey's tiebreaker at the 10:32 mark of the first overtime.

"I don't think words can describe how much this (stinks),'' Mallards coach Terry Ruskowski said. "It hurts a lot because we had another good opportunity in overtime and just couldn't score, and then they come back and end the game on us. The defensive coverage on the last goal just was not there. We let the guy in front of the net have a whack at it, and instead we should have forced his stick off the ice.''

The setback snapped an eight-game home ice winning streak for the Flock -- their longest in nine seasons -- and spoiled QC's home playoff opener at the i wireless Center.

Game 4 is Friday back at Moline's downtown arena, as is Saturday's Game 5, if the Mallards make that contest necessary.

By comparison, in 108 seasons of big-league playoffs, only four teams in the NHL, NBA and Major League Baseball have overcome a 3-0 deficit to win a playoff series.

"Instead of putting the pressure on them, all of the pressure is on us,'' Ruskowski said. "They're going to play loose because they have a big cushion.''

The Mallards, who started March out of the playoffs, reached the postseason with a CHL-best 11-2 stretch to close the regular season last month.But now, the sixth-seeded Flock will really need to play their best hockey to even have a shot at surviving this series with the third-seeded Brahmas.

"We have to do a better job of passing and moving our feet on defense,'' Ruskowski said. "I don't know; maybe they're tired.''

The Mallards blew leads in the first two games, but forced overtime this time by rallying from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits.

QC scoring leader Mickey Lang had QC's first goal with 16:51 gone in the second period. The score was Lang's second of the playoffs, 14th in the last 15 games, and 43rd of a CHL MVP runner-up season.

The Flock found themselves down 2-1 early in the third period, though, with Eric Tallent banging home a power-play rebound with 13:37 remaining in regulation.

However, Anthony Perdicaro got the equalizer three minutes later, thanks to assists from Shayne Toporowski and Matt Duffy.

Fort Worth's first-period score was a shorthanded goal by Calin Wild.

QC goalie John Murray (30 saves) was matched save-for-save until the end by Fort Worth's Kristofer Westblom (32 saves).

``I thought this was a hockey game, and it was supposed to be physical, but you hit a guy hard and he falls and they're going to call it,'' said Ruskowski, whose club is 1-5-1 against the Brahmas this season. ``You try and be physical with a physical team but you can't when they're calling penalties every cotton-picking night.''

While Ruskowski complained about the officiating for a third straight game, this time the NHL playing and minor-league coaching veteran was joined by 3,034 booing fans.

Fort Worth remains the least-penalized team in the CHL playoffs, with six infractions totaling 12 minutes this time. That was more than the five penalties and 10 minutes combined in the first two games in Texas, though.

The Mallards have been penalized twice as much so far in this series, 58 penalty minutes to 22 for the Brahmas.

``We're just going to have to do something with the referees here,'' Ruskowski said. ``I know people are going to say you lost and it's sour grapes, but I'm telling you, it's just brutal.

``We had a situation where Lang was going hard to the net, and the guy gives him a bar check in the corner, and the ref is right there and doesn't even call it? Are you kidding me? And there's so many other ones they missed.

``I know these are educated fans, and when they get on the refs like that, there's a reason why. The whole year, I bet I've heard them react 3-4 times that way and (Wednesday) was the loudest ever. It's just ridiculous. I am so disappointed.''

Frustration showed several times, with the teams exchanging words often. There also was a first-period stoppage, with Fort Worth forward Colby Pridham helped off the ice bleeding, but that was from an inadvertent skate to the leg.

``The league has to do something about this,'' Ruskowski said. ``We're losing players to other leagues because they're getting frustrated with what's being called. They're saying this is a brutal league. That's what I'm hearing on the bench and I can't say they're lying.''

However, the outcome was sweet for a quartet of former Mallards returning to a place they called home in the last year -- Snowden, defensemen Jared Lavender and Tyler Amburgey and backup goalie Brad Fogal.