INDEPENDENCE, Mo. -- Terry Ruskowski always tells his players last night's goals won't win the next night's game.
Too bad the Quad City Mallards coach is right, because the Flock would have loved to liberally borrow from last weekend's explosion against Missouri in a 3-1 loss at the Mavericks' packed Independence Events Center.
In front of a playoff-charged crowd of 5,515, Missouri (32-23-6, 70 points) turned the tables on a 14-3, two-game drubbing by QC (29-26-6, 64 points), preventing the Mallards from drawing nearer to the fifth-place Mavericks in the Central Hockey League playoff chase.
The Mallards are rematched today with Missouri for the 13th and final regular-season showdown between the rivals at 4:05 p.m. at Moline's i wireless Center.
"It just didn't happen for us.'' Ruskowski said, with the Mallards missing a chance to get within two points of Missouri with five games remaining in the next week. "We had some good chances to score, but not great ones, and we just couldn't generate any offense.''
Mizzo goalie Mike Clemente got the credit for the Mavericks clinching a playoff spot by turning away 31 shots.
The Mallards came within a Matt Duffy goal with 5:31 remaining of suffering their third shutout of the season.
Clemente, who leads the CHL in goalie victories, improved to 24-14-4, including a 6-3-1 mark against QC by resisting even the Flock's desperation attempts to score in the final 2:24 when the Mallards pulled goalie Neil Conway for the extra attacker.
Clemente surrendered 10 of last weekend's 14 Mallards goals, including three in the first 10:32 before getting replaced by backup Mathieu Corbeil a week ago at Missouri.
"(Clemente) played well,'' Ruskowski said. "But it's not like we made him stand on his head and make a bunch of great saves. Our power play was stagnant at best. They capitalized on mistakes and we didn't.''
Of the four mistakes the Mallards made in the first period, Ruskowski lamented Missouri scored on two of them.On the first goal, the Mallards defense collapsed too close to the net, allowing a point-blank shot by Kenton Miller.On the second score, Missouri's Brandon Smith charged through a QC defender's weak stick check behind the Mallards goal and beat Conway with a nifty backhander.
League scoring leader Sebastien Thinel later added a rebound goal in the second period to take another step toward an unprecedented third CHL scoring title.The MVP candidate now has 89 points this season, 13 more than QC's CHL MVP candidate, Mickey Lang, who remained stuck on 37 goals, second-best in the Double-A circuit.
Obi Aduba and Anthony Perdicaro had the assists on Duffy's late goal. Conway made 19 saves, with QC outshooting Mizzo, 32-22.
"Did we play bad? No. Did we play great? No,'' Ruskowski said a night after QC's 5-3 home win over Bloomington. "It was one of those `Hope-we'll-win' nights.
"I don't want my players to have any excuses, but we looked a little tired. We've played a lot of games in a short period of time. We went from playing four in five days last week, to two days off, to playing back-to-back nights again with travel. It's bound to wear on you.''
The Mallards' magic number for clinching a playoff berth remained at 5 points.
A 5-2 win by Bloomington (28-31-2, 58 points) over Denver (28-26-8, 64 points) kept Denver tied with QC for seventh place in the CHL, but reduced the Mallards' lead to six points on Bloomington for the league's eighth-and-final playoff spot.
Arizona (30-27-6, 65 points) edged out of a 3-way tie with QC and Denver, losing to playoff-qualifier Wichita, 4-3 in a shootout decided after The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus went to press.
"Every game just keeps getting bigger and bigger for us,'' Ruskowski said, eyeballing today. "We've got to play hard and not get in a shooting match with these guys because they're too talented.''
QC's Jason Kostadine will be missed again today. Kostadine was one of four players around the CHL suspended Saturday for illegal hits in Friday action. Kostadine's suspension will cover the two Missouri games.