April fool's day: Mallards wish the weekend were a joke

Originally Posted Online: March 31, 2013, 7:36 pm
Last Updated: March 31, 2013, 11:52 pm
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By Steve Tappa, stappa@qconline.com

The Quad City Mallards unfortunately laid a goose egg this Easter weekend.

That leaves the Flock in serious scramble mode, facing a 2-0 deficit with a best-of-7, opening-round playoff series shifting to Moline's i wireless Center starting with Wednesday night's Game 3.

A week after finishing the regular season with five straight victories, and a Central Hockey League-best 11-2 mark in March, the sixth-seeded Mallards are hunting for answers to third-seeded Fort Worth.

Yet, even before reviewing the videotape, from Saturday night's 3-2 overtime heartbreaker in Texas, QC coach Terry Ruskowski had about a half-dozen different-colored ideas to throw at his team.

"The first period we were physical. We were passing the puck. We were aggressive. Then for some reason we stopped,'' Ruskowski seethed before a 15-hour drive home.

"Why? A lack of confidence in our ability? I don't know what it is, but we've done that too many times this season, going back to our old ways.''

The Mallards led 1-0 and 2-1 in the first period Saturday, and held that edge until 74 seconds into the third frame.

However, QC was outshot 30-13 from the first intermission on, including 5-0 in sudden-death overtime.

"The first period? We were banging people. We kept doing that until halfway through the second period, and then it stopped happening,'' said Ruskowski, a four-time CHL finalist and two-time title-winning CHL coach.

"You'd think if you were successful being physical, you'd want to continue being physical. But we're just not a physical team.

"I guess I can't blame the guys. Any time there was a hard hit, it was a penalty. So what can you do?''

As was the case after Thursday's 4-1 loss in the opener, when a 1-0 first-period QC edge evaporated, Ruskowski also took issue with the officials. That's twice now in three days, after the QC coach rarely complained publicly about the officiating this season.

"We've just got to get better refs in the playoffs,'' said Ruskowski, a NHL playing veteran. "Players are held accountable every day if they're not doing their jobs. This is ridiculous. Somebody has got to do something.

"We get hooked, we get held, they grab the stick, and nothing is called. You can only take so much before you have to spit it out. This is a playoff game. This is when the owners make or don't make money.

"They're taking money out of our pockets. They're costing us games. There's too much at stake for everybody. It's got to be fair for both sides.''

In particular, Ruskowski remains perturbed about losing CHL Rookie of the Year Mike Hellyer and top-line defenseman Bob Preece to hits in the first five minutes of the series.

Hellyer will miss the rest of the playoffs after suffering a serious knee injury that may require corrective surgery. Preece's return is uncertain, with the veteran listed as day-to-day with a concussion.

What's more, the Double-A circuit can't review the plays, with the CHL TV feed down early in that contest, preventing the hits from appearing on the Game 1 videotape.

"The fact there are no repercussions possible really sits sour with me,'' Ruskowski said.

Not that Ruskowski is letting the rest of the Flock off the hook.

"We have to make better passes. We had our chances,'' Ruskowski insisted. "We had a couple of 2-on-1 (opportunities) where we failed to make that next pass. You can't do that in a playoff series. I don't know what it is, but under pressure, we don't pass very well.

"Some of these guys just are not doing their jobs. It's going to be a rude awakening to see what happens next. I'm bringing in a kid that will make us better. We need another defenseman, too.

"I hope to get them both in here by Monday. I've got the forward coming out of the juniors (ranks) for sure. I just need to call him back right now.''

Because of the Hellyer and Preece injuries, the shorthanded Mallards are able to sign two replacement skaters from the amateur ranks, much like an emergency goaltender.

"The thing that bothers me the most was it was right there for us,'' Ruskowski said about Saturday night's series-changing setback. "We just needed one more shot to go. This was a game we had to have.''


Local events heading

  Today is Wednesday, April 23, the 113th day of 2014. There are 252 days left in the year.

1864 — 150 years ago: Some persons are negotiating for 80 feet of ground on Illinois Street with a view of erecting four stores thereon. It would serve a better purpose if the money was invested in neat tenement houses.
1889 — 125 years ago: The Central station, car house and stables of the Moline-Rock Island Horse Railway line of the Holmes syndicate, together with 15 cars and 42 head of horses, were destroyed by fire. The loss was at $15,000.
1914 — 100 years ago: Vera Cruz, Mexico, after a day and night of resistance to American forces, gradually ceased opposition. The American forces took complete control of the city.
1939 — 75 years ago: Dr. R. Bruce Collins was reelected for a second term as president of the Lower Rock Island County Tuberculosis Association.
1964 — 50 years ago: Work is scheduled to begin this summer on construction of a new men's residence complex and an addition to the dining facilities at Westerlin Hall at Augustana College.
1989 — 25 years ago: Special Olympics competitors were triple winners at Rock Island High School Saturday. The participants vanquished the rain that fell during the competition, and some won their events; but most important, they triumphed over their own disabilities.

(More History)