Facing the SPHL-leading Huntsville Havoc for the first time this season, surrendering three early-period goals, including two shorthanded scores, killed the Quad City Storm in a 6-2 loss Friday night at TaxSlayer Center.
QC gave up a score less than 80 seconds into all three frames despite finishing with a 45-31 advantage in shots on goal.
Facing the highest scoring team in the league, QC gave up two shorthanded goals and an empty-netter in the final period.
Storm assistant coach Jake Toporowski said he liked how the team came out firing to start the game, the shots just could have been better.
"We came out strong, we thought we were a little bit too perimeter," he said. "Yeah we had a lot of shots on net, but their goalie made a lot of saves. We didn't get to their house enough to score enough goals."
Zane Steeves made 36 saves for the Havoc.
To open the scoring, Storm goalie Bailey Brkin mishandled a slow shot and let it trickle into the net after he was unable to secure the puck just 74 seconds into the game.
Then in the second period, Huntsville's Tyler Piacentini found the net just 28 seconds in.
Connor Fries got the Storm on the board about six minutes later, scoring his 12th goal off a Dillon Fournier assist to make it 2-1.
However, the Havoc extended their lead again less than two minutes later when the SPHL's leading scorer Jacob Barber scored his league-leading 20th goal on a power play that followed a Tommy Stang tripping penalty to make the deficit 3-1.
QC looked to grab some momentum with a two-minute power play to start the third period, but Piacentini instead scored a shorthanded goal to put the Havoc up 4-1 just 40 seconds into the final frame.
QC's Tommy Tsicos neutralized the missed opportunity with a power-play goal 1:38 into the third to make it 4-2, but Mathieu Newcomb scored another shorthanded goal for the Havoc on a breakaway 7:38 into the third to make it 5-2.
QC emptied the net the final few minutes as Rob Darrar capped the blowout with an empty-net score with under six seconds to play.
QC finished 1 of 6 on the power-play as Huntsville was 1 of 4.
Toporoswki said a decision on Saturday's starting goalie is to be determined, but the shorthanded goals were not solely Brkin's fault.
"It comes down to special teams," he said. "In playoffs and big games like these during the season, special teams are a key component and you have to win special teams if you want to be a good team, and tonight we didn't win special teams and that ended up costing us."
Toporowski said the team must be more aggressive getting into the opposing zone.
"Overall, we were just OK," he said. "(Saturday) we have a lot more to give, we have a couple bodies coming in that should help us.
"We know we can play with that hockey team, and I expect we will (Saturday)."
Both teams face off here again at 7:10 p.m. on Saturday.