BLOOMINGTON -- The Quad City Mallards had a chance to move from eighth to sixth Friday night in the CHL standings.|
Instead, the Flock failed to win for the second straight night at rival Bloomington, squandering a late power-play opportunity and having another shot hit the goalpost in a 3-2 setback at the U.S. Cellular Coliseum.
As a result, the Mallards (15-16-4, 34 points) backslid into ninth, a point away from the final CHL playoff spot just past midseason heading into tonight's visit to third-place Missouri (18-12-4, 40 points).
"We just can't seem to get over the hump,'' QC coach Terry Ruskowski lamented. "If we beat them, we jump ahead of them by a (standings) point. We had our chances. We just couldn't put the biscuit in the basket.''
QC rookie Mike Hellyer scored with 15 seconds left, after QC pulled goalie Neil Conway for the extra attacker. However, the Flock failed to cap the last-minute comeback with the overtime-forcing equalizer.
Just before opting for that 6-on-5 skating situation, the Mallards failed to find the net in a five-minute, extended power-play chance when Bloomington's Sebastien Trudeau was whistled for a spearing major and game misconduct with 6:53 remaining in the third period.
"I told the guys I screwed up,'' said Ruskowski, one of the CHL's all-time winningest coaches. "Looking back, I should have pulled the goalie then for a 6-on-4 (situation).
"Down one (goal), you can't pull the goalie, but down two (scores), you should, because you just have to get a goal there. Instead, I wanted to see our power play (unit) get some shots on net, get some more traffic in front of their goalie, and get another one. So that was my mistake, because the tic-tac-toe just didn't work for us.''
The Mallards' league-worst power play improved to an 11.38-percent success rate, though, by cashing in 1-of-3 man-advantage chances for a 1-0 lead.
Scoring leader Mickey Lang netted a goal for the fourth time in five games since New Year's Day, tallying his 19th of the season, only 4:01 into the first period.
"I wish I'd done it now,'' Ruskowski said about pulling Conway. "I should have known better. I just don't have a guy back there that can quarterback the power play like you'd like, to fake a shot and find the free guy.''
Also unfortunate for QC? Jason Dixon also had a third-period shot hit the post.
"I have to look at the (video) tape because I thought that was in,'' Ruskowski said. "Usually you hear something when it hits the post, but I never did. That was the game-tier as it would have turned out.''
Instead, league-scoring leader Bloomington (18-15-1, 37 points) bounced back from QC's early edge, taking the lead with a pair of second-period scores, before going up 3-1 with 12:07 gone in the third on Tyler Gron's second goal of the game.
Matt Duffy had a pair of assists, setting up both Mallards goals. Rookie Conway turned away 21-of-24 shots in his second start in as many nights for QC.
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