Originally Posted Online: Feb. 05, 2013, 11:28 pm
Last Updated: Feb. 06, 2013, 12:09 am

Late Missouri rally sinks Mallards

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By Steve Tappa, stappa@qconline.com

Hopefully the Quad City Mallards love the movie "Titanic.''

Re-watching Tuesday's 4-3 setback to Missouri will look a lot like that Hollywood blockbuster, with the Flock earning a three-hour film review session today after practice.

"Actually, I don't care how long it lasts,'' QC coach Terry Ruskowski corrected after experiencing a sinking feeling at Moline's i wireless Center.

"They have to see themselves and I have to show them on a tape what they're doing wrong so they don't do it again. You make bad mistakes against good teams, it's going to come back to haunt you.''

So far, the Mallards allowing Missouri to rally from a third-period deficit didn't cost the Flock any ground in the Central Hockey League standings.

QC (19-19-5, 43 points) remains three points out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Double-A circuit with seven weeks remaining.

Arch-rival Bloomington, the Mallards' foe for the next three games, starting Friday, slid back to sole possession of the eighth spot Thursday with Arizona rallying Thursday to win at Denver.

Missouri (22-16-4, 48 points) rebounded from a recent slide itself, including a Saturday setback to the visiting Mallards, to also move back ahead of QC by five points with five more meetings down the stretch.

"It's disappointing,'' Ruskowski said after the Mallards first loss in regulation in six games. "We had a lot of guys riding instead of working tonight.

"It's like those two-seat bicycles. The front guy is pedaling like heck and the second guy is sitting back with his feet on the handle bars.

"If we're not all grabbing the rope and pulling in the same direction, we're not going to win, because we don't have that type of talent yet.''

Ironically, the contest was shaping up just like Saturday's meeting in Missouri, when the Mallards scored thrice in the third period to steal a 5-2 road victory.

Just like Saturday, the Flock rallied from a 2-1 deficit to lead 3-2 early in the third period, with Mike Stinziani coming back from an in-game injury to score the go-ahead goal in the frame's first minute.

Defender Bob Preece also provided the equalizer late in the second period. QC scoring leader Mickey Lang assisted on both goals.

However, Missouri answered Stinziani's score four minutes later and got the game-winner at the 8:22 mark on a power play.

The Mavericks got the man-advantage when Stinziani's and Lang's linemate, Mike Hellyer, was whistled for goalie interference, running into Missouri's Mike Clemente on a rush to the net.

"Hellyer is not the type of player where he's going to go crashing into the goalie,'' Ruskowski said. "If I'm not mistaken, he got pushed into the goalie. You can't help that. If you're pushed, you're out of control.

"To give a penalty for that type of situation? I don't understand it. If you're going to call a penalty, you have to see a penalty, and if you saw the push, then there was no penalty involved.

"That (power-play goal) was the backbreaker. We were passive. We sat back and let them make their plays. When we're aggressive, we're a much better penalty-killing unit.''

Lang, though, pointed to Missouri's first goal, a shorthanded score on a QC power play in the second period, with the Mallards leading 1-0.

"The shorthanded goal killed us,'' said Lang, who scored QC's first goal on a first-period power play. "A lot of the responsibility lands on me. I let that guy sneak away on a breakaway and it turned around to kill us.

"As a unit, that was a bad mistake, a mental mistake. We were out there too long and we got smoked. That's why we lost the game.''

Missouri's line of John-Scott Dickson (2 goals, 1 assist), Trevor Kell (3 assists) and Kellan Tochkin (1 goal, 1 assist) did most of the damage for the visitors.

Dickson scored both the shorthanded and power-play goals.

``The only reason we won the game Saturday is our goalie stood on his head,'' Ruskowski said. ``But (Neil Conway) couldn't save us tonight. We depend way too much on our goalies.''

``If you're not scoring, play defense and be physical. Do something. Get involved in the game. Just going up and down with a stick check here and there? If I was a player, I couldn't go home at night and sleep knowing I didn't do anything. It irks me. I don't understand it.''

Now, the Mallards have 23 regular-season games remaining, including 13 at home. But meetings with Bloomington (10) and Missouri (5) make up the majority of those contests, meaning all is hardly lost.

``This is a tough loss. But we have to bounce back,'' Lang said. ``We have big games coming up. We can't hang our heads about this one. We have to move forward and keep going.''