Mallards sink and soar during the final playoff stretch

The Mallards’ wings seemed to be clipped in the beginning of March, as their season-long eight game homestand saw only three victories for the home team. However, they then began a three game winning streak.

The Tulsa Oilers shut out the Mallards on March 4th in what could only be described as shameful. After the game, Coach Terry Ruskowski made the team skate for 30 minutes, doing variations on suicide drills and skating from goal line to goal line. One reporter for the Mallards, Bobby Metcalf, said, “We call this Miracling a team.”

March 6th saw a better result for the flock as they beat the Allen Americans 3-2 in what proved to be a close battle. That same night Todd Fiddler was sent to the Ontario Reign in order to complete the trade that Ruskowski had started on Oct. 28th for Mario Lamoureux.

The next night saw the score reversed between the two teams in what proved to be a hard-fought and interesting contest. At 8:29 of the second period, Jannik Christensen mishandled the puck attempting to pass it back to goalie Evan Mosher and instead scored on his own net; this proved to be the deciding goal. With less than a minute left the Americans scored on the empty net, but it was waived due to offsides.

March 9th began a string of call ups and reassignments between the Mallards and their AHL (American Hockey League) affiliate Iowa Wild, as well as the Lake Erie Monsters and new talent signings. Nicolas Rioux signed a PTO (proffessional tryout agreement) with Iowa as Mosher signed a PTO with Lake Erie.

Two days later Rioux would be released from the PTO. Forward Mason Baptista signed an amateur tryout agreement (ATO) on March 11th, only to be released March 20th  due to injury and school commitments.

March 11th the Mallards beat the Missouri Mavericks 3-2 in overtime, Rioux scoring the game-winning goal. Late in the first period, Nelson and a Maverick player collided, both falling awkwardly. Nelson suffered a lower-body injury and is still out as of March 31st.

Austin Coldwell, a defenseman from University of Alaska-Anchorage, signed an ATO on March 12th. Later that day, Benjamin Dieude-Fauvel was released from his PTO with Iowa that had begun Dec. 14th. Joe Perry was re-assigned to the Mallards at the same time after signing a standard player contract with Iowa earlier; Perry had signed a PTO with Iowa Feb. 6th. Rioux was then sent back to Iowa after signing a PTO.                

March 14th the Mallards won over the Wichita Thunder 3-1. After the game, the Mallards’ specialty sweaters were auctioned off to raise money for Genesis Family Connections; $17,700 was raised.

The Mallards dropped the last game of their eight-game homestand 2-1 against the Tulsa Oilers on March 18th. March 19th saw the Mallards sign forward Alex Grieve and waive defenseman Bennett Schneider.

The Mallards lost 3-1 on March 20th against the Rapid City Rush in the first of two back to back games against the Rush. The next night the score was the same. At 14:35 of the final frame, Dieude-Fauvel racked up 14 penalty minutes: two for boarding, two for roughing, and a ten minute misconduct for continuing an altercation.

With just 22 seconds left in the game, two fights broke out, Collins, Fox, Kevin Harvey, and Kale Kerbashian dropping the gloves and earning five minutes each. Kerbashian and Fox also earned ten minute misconducts for secondary altercations. Perry and Clarke earned ten minute misconducts for unsportsmanlike conduct at the same time as the fights.

March 22nd Dieude-Fauvel signed another PTO with Iowa, making the journey from Rapid City to Des Moines to play in Iowa’s game that afternoon. March 23rd the Mallards waived two-way player Johnny Rogic and signed defenseman Jake Baker from Northern Michigan University.

March 25th the Mallards beat the Wichita Thunder 5-3.

March 27th produced an even better result for the flock, as they beat the Thunder 4-0 for Milner’s second shutout of the season. Coach Ruskowski won his 100th game as Mallards head coach that night, garnering a video tribute and cake directly following the game. The VFW Post 1303 warm-up sweaters were auctioned off that night as well.

March 29th the Mallards beat the Mavericks 4-3 in overtime, Lamoureux scoring the only goal in the shootout.

The Mallards lost 6-5 against the Brampton Beast on April 1st, damaging their chances of making it to the playoffs. However, those chances quickly became better.

The Flock clinched a playoff spot on April 4th after winning back to back games in Rapid City. April 3rd saw a shootout victory 2-1 for the Quackers, while April 4th was a close 3-2 win. Neal scored his first professional goal that night.

The Mallards wrap up the season at home on April 11th with Fan Appreciation Night. Puck drop is at 7:05 PM as always for Saturdays.

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