Originally Posted Online: March 31, 2013, 7:36 pm
Last Updated: March 31, 2013, 11:52 pm
April fool's day: Mallards wish the weekend were a joke
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By Steve Tappa, firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo: Robert Keith | special to sports|
Quad City Mallards forward Matt Boyd tumbles over a Fort Worth player to try to play the puck during Saturday's 3-2 overtime loss in Game 2 of the CHL Playoffs in Fort Worth, Texas.
Photo: Robert Keith | special to sports|
Quad City Mallards goalie Neil Conway turns away a shot against the Fort Worth Brahmas during Saturday's Game 2 of the CHL playoffs.
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.''