The Quad City Mallards are making "an important announcement concerning the team'' today at 1:30 p.m., according to a media release by the Flock.|
For those guessing at the news, on the eve of the Mallards kicking off a 15th anniversary celebration for their back-to-back league champs, QC coach Terry Ruskowski jokingly confirmed the press conference has nothing to do with extending his contract after Wednesday night's 5-1 thrashing by Wichita at Moline's i wireless Center.
"We played like we weren't even there,'' Ruskowski said. "No emotion. None.''
For the second time in three days, the ninth-place Mallards (13-15-3, 29 points) were handled by one of the CHL's top two teams, in this case the second-place Thunder (20-10-3, 43 points).
This time, the Flock finished a mid-third period goal, by scoring leader Mickey Lang, from a second straight shutout.
Just as galling for QC, which trailed 4-0 before Lang's 16th goal of the season?
The Mallards just knocked Wichita out of first place last Saturday on the road, winning for the sixth time in eight games. Now, QC has dropped its last two with third-place Denver coming to town Friday.
"You know what's infuriating?'' Ruskowski asked rhetorically. "When you think you can take the next step in developing these guys and all of a sudden you have to go back to basics again and teach them all over what we're doing, what our systems are again, and how to react.
"It's so frustrating to see the same mistakes over and over and over and over again. They correct it when we win, but then they go back to their old style again and play pond hockey and it just frustrates the heck out of me.''
The CHL's worst power play unit was again lifeless, going 0-for-3 on the man-advantage.
"Our power play hasn't even gotten close to scoring goals,'' against Wichita and league-leading Allen, a 4-0 winner over QC Monday, Ruskowski said.
"We just don't have a guy back there that can quarterback my power play. We don't have a guy who will take a shot or give a guy a pass or stop it, wind up and shoot it.
"When we get the puck on the power play, instead of driving, we take it back out again. Why? Why can't we hit the net with the puck? It is so frustrating.''
Just as disappointing is QC's defense. The Mallards also drew just a pair of penalties, neither for fighting, despite getting blown out in their own building.
"There's guys I brought here because of their physical presence, not because they think they're great hockey players,'' Ruskowski said. "So I told them a little saying (Wednesday), `When a mucker thinks he's a rusher, he soon becomes an usher.'
"That's good advice. Dance with what brought you. Don't try and do something else. Know your strengths.
"We're not winning the one-on-one battles. We're not hitting. You don't have to run through the boards, you just have to finish your checks. How many times did we finish our checks (Wednesday)? Once?''
Of the Mallards, only Jason Dixon earned praise Wednesday.
"Even though he's a little guy, he hits probably more than anybody else,'' Ruskowski said. "When he gets the puck, I don't have to worry about him making a bad, cross-ice pass. It's either getting in deep or he's making a nice play at a blue line.
"We just don't have anybody driving to the net for any kind of rebound or deflections. Everybody's perimeter; they play outside. We don't get down and dirty. We have no creativity (on offense) and we don't pass well. That's a bad combination.''
The stinker, as the Mallards near the season's midway point, earned them video review this morning, moved up to 7:30 before an on-ice practice.
"I'd go at 5 a.m., but I can't get up that early,'' Ruskowski said. "Not when you're just getting to sleep by then, if at all. This game will be going through my mind the whole time.''
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