INDEPENDENCE, Mo. -- Neil Conway failed to rate among the assembled media's "Three Stars."
However, Quad City Mallards coach Terry Ruskowski was quick to issue the rookie goaltender a gold star Saturday after a 5-2 victory at Missouri's Independence Events Center.
Conway turned away 33 of 35 shots, making several big saves in the first and second periods to keep the Mallards within 2-1 before the Flock erupted with four unanswered goals, including three in the third period of a key road comeback.
"Conway really deserved 'First Star' honors. He played really really well,'' Ruskowski said after personally inching within three victories of the 400-win mark in 10 Central Hockey League seasons.
"He kept us in the first half of this game until we finally got rid of those bus legs and got him some help. This is another reflection of his preparation and dedication. The kid practices hard and it pays off.''
The victory allowed the Mallards (19-18-5, 43 points) to nose ahead of the .500 mark for the first time since late November.
Ironically, though, the Flock failed to gain ground in the chase for the eighth and final playoff spot.
Arizona (21-20-4, 46 points) and Rapid City (21-18-5, 47 points) each won a pair of games this weekend during a road swing through Texas, both beating league-leading Allen.
"We just have to worry about ourselves," Ruskowski said with 24 games remaining. "We just have to keep winning and get as many points as we can, and hopefully the Good Lord will bless us with a playoff spot."
Ruskowski, who earlier this season registered his 600th career win in 18 minor-league seasons, came away impressed with more than just Conway, though.
In all, 10 Mallards registered points, including five goal-scorers, to extend QC's unbeaten streak to five straight in regulation. The only setback in that timeframe occured in the shootout, with the Flock outscoring foes 27-8 in that stretch.
Michael Monfredo, "First Star" Anthony Perdicaro and "Second Star" Mickey Lang all accounted for a pair of QC points.
"We have to play like that," said Ruskowski, whose team was outshot 35-20. "We have to have three lines capable of scoring. We have to keep picking away."
The Mallards were forced to scrap back, with Missouri (21-16-4, 46 points) scoring twice a minute-and-a-half apart late in the second period to overcome Obi Aduba's early goal.
"It looked like it was going to be a long night," Ruskowski said. "But Conway kept us in there, and once we got even, that re-energized us. Then you knew we really had a chance."
Defensemen Derek Matheson delivered the second-period equalizer with help from Pedricaro and Jason Kostadine.Perdicaro then started the scoring in the game-turning third period, with the go-ahead goal at the 7:46 mark.
Monfredo punctuated QC's rally with his first goal as a pro, taking advantage of an empty-net with 15 seconds remaining after Missouri pulled goalie Mike Clemente for the extra attacker.
Both Lang and Monfredo assisted on Perdicaro's goal, and Lang also helped out the insurance score to follow four minutes later by rookie Mike Hellyer.
Lang, QC's scoring leader and the CHL's Player of the Month in January, extended his scoring streak to 10 games and soared over the 50-point mark for the season.
"It wasn't pretty. But we're not playing for style points," Ruskowski said. "Especially on the road. You just want to get two points and get out of Dodge."