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
Comment on this story | Print this story | Email this story
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 Sunday, Sept. 21, the 264th day of 2014. There are 101 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: We hear that Col. Reynolds has employed C.D. Merrill to drill for water to supply the Rock Island Barracks.
1889 -- 125 years ago: Billy Catton, famous billard player, returned to Rock Island with a view to making this city his home in the future.
1914 -- 100 years ago: The belief is growing that a great decisive battle of the World War was being fought at Verdun, a strong fortress of France on the Meuse near the French frontier, according to a London dispatch.
1939 -- 75 years ago: William Stremmel, 91, Rock Island's last Civil War veteran, died.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Workmen of the Midwest Wrecking Co., Clinton, have begun razing the historic old office building of Deere & Co., 1325 3rd Ave., Moline. The site will be used by the Deere Plow Works for its shipping and receiving department.
1989 -- 25 years ago: East Moline developer Jim Massa says the financial package for the proposed $34.5 million Quad City International Motor Speedway is down to making sure "all the i's are dotted and t's are crossed. Finalizing this will give the green light to see if NASCAR and CART, the auto racing sanctioning bodies, approve race dates.

(More History)