Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2014, 7:57 pm
League-leading Missouri halts Mallards momentum
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INDEPENDENCE, Mo. -- A great start. A terrible finish.
Sunday's 5-2 setback summarized the weekend for the Quad City Mallards.
CHL leader Missouri snapped QC's four-game winning streak, preventing the Mallards from moving into a second-place tie with Denver heading into the final 41 days of the regular season.
After back-to-back home wins over title contender Rapid City, QC scored first in Sunday's showdown before a sellout crowd of 5,800 at the Independence Events Center in suburban Kansas City.
However, Missouri scored three times in the second period, reigning CHL MVP Sebastien Thinel registered three assists, and the hosts held off a late Mallards comeback attempt to beat the Flock for the third time in as many tries this season.
"We were tired. We played three games in 48 hours, and we had to wake up early and drive here,'' Mallards coach Terry Ruskowski said. "But what bothers me is we lived up to the expectation that we weren't going to play well. The work ethic just was not there.''
The Mallards (24-12-8, 56 points) remain in a fourth-place tie with the Double-A circuit's defending champ Allen heading into the local minor league hockey club's next game.
That comes Wednesday when Missouri (31-13-2, 64 points) visits Moline's iWireless Center for the first time this campaign.
"Hopefully we can figure out how to beat them because we're going to be seeing them a lot,'' Ruskowski said, noting six more meetings with the Mavs down this season's stretch. "You hope this is a game we forget real fast. The only thing to remember is how it felt to lose to these guys.''
Despite the early lead, thanks to Matt Boyd's 11th goal of the season, the Mallards were outshot 12-3 in the opening frame.
Missouri peppered QC goalie Thomas Heemskerk 12 more times in the second period, for an overall 24-10 advantage in shots on goal.
The Mavericks finished with a 35-18 edge in handing the Triple-A tested Heemskerk his first and only other regulation loss this season since Dec. 14 at Rapid City.
"Heemskerk played well. He kept us in the game,'' Ruskowski said. "I told the guys to apologize to him for not playing hard. It wasn't his fault. We really let him down.''
Missouri's first two goals came in the opening 1:10 of the second period. Former Mallard Obi Aduba later burned his old club for a 3-1 lead.
Yet, Gabriel Levesque, who failed on a rare penalty shot in the second period, scored on a 5-on-3 power play with 2:23 remaining to give the visitors a glimmer of hope.
However, that was QC's only other score, despite being on the man-advantage five times in the last 7:15 of game time.
Missouri also iced the contest by scoring twice in the final 95 seconds, including an empty-net goal off a faceoff at the 1:11 mark after QC pulled Heemskerk for the extra attacker.
"We didn't deserve to win,'' Ruskowski said. "We weren't moving our feet. We were standing still, and so when we did get the puck, we never had anyone to pass to.
"I told the guys, if we lose and try hard, I'd swallow it. But to lose playing the way we did? Now that really bothers me.''