The Mallards made the playoffs once again this season. All was right with the world until April 29th.
The Mallards acquired a new face in the form of center Michael Clarke on April 10th. Clarke finished his juniors career playing for the Peterborough Petes of the Ontario Hockey League on April 3rd.
April 11th the Mallards beat the Tulsa Oilers 2-1 in overtime for the final game of the regular season, locking third place in the Central Division. Matt Duffy scored in overtime unassisted to win the game. The team crowded onto the ice to celebrate and congratulate each other on a hard-fought and much needed victory.
With third place, the Mallards faced second place Rapid City Rush in the first round of the ECHL Kelly Cup Playoffs. This is not the first time the Mallards will have faced the Rush in the first round, as last season the Flock beat the Rush in game 7 to advance to the semi-finals. That series was not without its own thrills, as the second game went to overtime and games ranged from blow-outs to one goal deciding it all.
Another new talent was added by Coach Terry “Roscoe” Ruskowski on April 13th, as Liam Stewart signed with the Flock that day. Stewart’s Western Hockey League team, the Spokane Chiefs, was eliminated from the playoffs in triple overtime of game 6 on April 7th , leading to his contract with the Quad City team.
The Flock boarded a bus to Rapid City on April 15th , being seen off by 50 fans at the iWireless Center. The fans’ cars were lined up in a tunnel, lights on and flashing as people honked horns, rang cowbells, and waved at their departing team.
Before the bus left, two carloads of players had driven through the tunnel to pump the waiting fans up, as well as giving high-fives to each person. Carrie Idle and Terry Clarke escorted the Mallards’ bus down the tunnel in the zamboni, their horn sounding along with the bus’ and the fans’. The players seemed to enjoy the send-off, as they crowded onto the bunks to wave to fans. Coach Roscoe sat at the front of the bus with a large grin on his face as he waved.
The Mallards’ first two playoff games were in Rapid City, the first on April 17th , and the second the following night. The Mallards took the first game 3-2 as both Stewart and Clarke scored their first professional goals, Benjamin Dieude-Fauvel scoring the winning goal. Dieude-Fauvel was then loaned to the French National Team on April 20th to compete in the IIHF World Championship in the Czech Republic.
The next night the score was reversed, Joe Perry scoring both Mallards goals. Perry’s second goal came while the Mallards were down a man.
In overtime on April 22nd, the Mallards lost 2-1 after the score had been 1-0 favoring the Mallards through most of the game.
April 24th saw the Mallards win 2-1 in what some could call luck. The Flock had plenty of chances that they were unable to capitalize on throughout the night. Assistant captain Lee missed a Mallards game for the first time in two seasons, being a healthy scratch to see Nick Grasso play.
April 25th Mosher earned his first professional playoff shutout as the Mallards won 4-0. The Flock played intensly, rattling the Rush throughout the game. As the game progressed the Rush appeared to play more and more physically in hopes of gaining a point, but were met with failure.
April 28th the Mallards lost 3-2 after going down 3-1 after just twenty minutes of play. The next night the Mallards lost in Game 7 2-1, ending their season in dramatic fashion. All three goals came in the final twenty minutes.
The first Mallards game of the 2015-2016 season will be on the road in Allen on Oct. 16. Until then, keep your stick on the ice and your head up.