Goaltender Thomas Heemskerk was called up to the Abbotsford Heat of the American Hockey League (AHL) on Feb. 3, leaving a gap in the roster filled by Eric Levine, goalie for the Peoria Rivermen of the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL). Mr. Levine then signed a professional try-out agreement (PTO) with the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL on Feb. 7, and Nick Niedert was signed for the third time to the Quad City team before Mr. Heemskerk returned on Feb. 10.
The Mallards took on 2013 President Cup winner, the Allen Americans, on Wednesday Feb. 5, with a resounding 5-2 victory. This game was the first of four games played in a five day stretch for the Mallards, only one on the road. After being tied going into the third period, the Mallards scored three unanswered goals in the final frame, including an empty netter by Mike Stinziani.
Because of the outcome of the game on Wednesday, all fans in attendance received free admission to the next winning Wednesday game, Feb. 19, sponsored by T.G.I. Fridays.
Friday Feb. 7 saw the Mallards once again take on the Allen Americans, and the result was mirrored, Allen beating Quad City 5-2. The Mallards’ two goals were produced by Matt Duffy and Michael Monfredo who buried the tying goal with less than a minute left in the second period. The Mallards were unable to stop the Americans’ offense, and three unanswered goals sealed the Mallards’ fate, one in the second period and two in the third.
The next evening, John Deere Night, the Mallards took on rival St. Charles Chill in front of 8,761 fans, the largest crowd in the Central Hockey League (CHL) this season, and the largest crowd to watch the Mallards play since John Deere Night last year. 13,321 people watched back-to-back games the weekend of Feb. 7, making the largest crowd to witness games two nights in a row at the iWireless Center this season. The Mallards put on quite a show for their large crowd, beating the Chill 6-3. This night also saw Gabriel Levesque score his first professional hat trick; Mr. Levesque also got an assist on Mr. Monfredo’s goal. Things began to grow heated in the third period, with several penalties for fighting and roughing. Roughing, as stated by the National Hockey League Official Rule Book, is “a punching motion with the hand or fist, with or without the glove on the hand, normally directed at the head or face of an opponent.”
For the last of four games in five days, the Mallards traveled to St. Charles to take on the Chill once more. After two periods, the game was tied at three before the Chill’s Mr. Berard scored a shorthanded goal to give his team the edge. The Mallards then scored three unanswered goals in the third, culminated by Thomas Frazee getting an empty netter with thirteen seconds left in the game for a final score of 6-4. Forward Mike Hellyer suffered a lower-body injury and missed the games on Feb. 14 and Feb. 15 before returning for one game and then being placed on 14-day IR on Feb. 18.
Ty Rimmer played between the pipes for all four games during that stretch, for a total of 239 minutes and 39 seconds of playing time.
About the several AHL call-ups, Coach Terry Ruskowski said, “Well, sometimes when you don’t give the guys a chance to play, they can’t really improve themselves. When you get call-ups or injuries, they get more ice time, and the more ice time they get, the better they play. So it’s just getting the guys more ice time to prove themselves, and they’ve been playing very well so I’m very happy with them.”
He went on to say that although there are times when the team is inconsistent, overall, the team is playing well. “There’s time when we have trouble scoring goals, and there’s times where goals come very easily. It’s like peaks and valleys, and right now we’re in the valley.”
The key, he said, to continuing the recent hot streak is “pushing them as hard as you can in practice, but yet don’t push them too hard when they’re tired to play. I thought we had a pretty good practice today; we did a lot of things that we needed to go over to get better at.”
Defenseman Nicholas Rioux also gave an interview the same day. According to him, the biggest difference between playing for the Mallards and the Iowa Wild (AHL) is “a little bit the speed, the execution, the passing. I think the plays are happening a little bit quicker up there.”
“I played with Bloomington last year, so I came here a lot, and every time we came here, oh my god, the fans, it seems like a great place to play, and playing here this year I’m really happy to be here, and it’s a good spot to be,” Mr. Rioux finished, praising the city.
Benjamin Dieude-Fauvel, another defenseman, said about the fans, “I like them; we’ve got good crowds this year. That’s pretty crazy when you play infront of 5, 6, 7, 8, thousand people at every game like that. That’s really nice, knowing they’re behind us.”
On Valentine’s Day, the Mallards took a victory against Rapid City 4-2, and three familiar faces were seen on the opposing bench.
The following night, Terry Ruskowski bobbleheads were given away to the first 1000 fans through the doors, and a thrilling game ensued. Each team scored a single goal in each period, leading to a 3-3 tie going into overtime. Five extra minutes were not enough to decide the game, so a shoot-out was necessary. Neither team was able to find twine in the first five rounds, but in the seventh round, Jeff Lee hopped over the boards to take the shot against his former club. He was able to slip one past Boron, gaining the second point for his team.
Thomas Frazee suffered an upper-body injury late in the second period of the game Feb. 15, remaining on the bench for the remainder of the game. He did not play the following day against Missouri and was then placed on 7-day IR on Feb. 18. The Mallards suffered a disappointing loss to the top-team in the league 5-2 in Independence. One of Missouri’s goals was scored by Obi Aduba who had played for four seasons with the Mallards.
On Feb. 19, the Mallards once again took on Missouri, falling 2-1. The goal that sealed the Mallards’ fate was once again scored by Mr. Aduba. This was also the first game where Mr. Lee wore the ‘A’ upon his chest, as he was named alternate captain of the team on Feb. 18. The other alternate captain for the Mallards is Mr. Stinziani, right winger and second year player for the Mallards. No goals were scored during the first period, but Missouri struck first with a shorthanded goal less than five minutes into the second stanza. Mr. Lee scored the Mallards’ only goal seven minutes later. During the final minutes of play, the Mallards pulled goalie Thomas Heemskerk for the extra-attacker in an unsuccessful attempt to tie the game. A shot was taken at the Mallards’ empty net, but the puck sailed just wide of the net, bouncing off of the post and leaving the score at 2-1.
The Mallards are currently tied with Allen for fourth place with 56 points and a record of 24-13-8 and a .622 winning percentage.