Mallards Game Day
By defeating Cincinnati 6-3 last night, the Mallards clinched a berth in the ECHL's Kelly Cup playoffs on the penultimate evening of the regular season. The Mallards eliminated the Tulsa Oilers- who are stranded three points behind the Mallards with one game remaining- and became the eighth and final Western Conference team to lock up a postseason spot.
Brady Brassart- who provided the game winner- and Olivier Archambault- who also had an assist- scored two goals apiece to propel the host Mallards to victory.
What We Know
The Mallards will host games three (Wednesday, April 20 at 6:35 p.m.), four (Friday, April 22 at 7:05 p.m.) and- if necessary- five (Saturday, April 23 at 7:05 p.m.) of their best-of-seven opening round playoff series against an opponent who will be determined tonight. The Mallards will be on the road for the first two games of the series as well as for potential sixth and seventh games.
With last night's win, the Mallards moved into seventh place in the Western Conference and second place in the Midwest Division, one point ahead of the Cyclones. The Mallards will finish as the seventh seed if they earn at least one point tonight. With a win the Mallards would finish ahead of Cincinnati. With an overtime or shootout loss the Mallards would finish tied with the Cyclones but would win the tiebreaker- non-shootout wins. The Mallards enter tonight with 35 wins in regulation and overtime compared to 33 for Cincinnati. The Mallards will finish eighth in the conference if they lose in regulation.
If the Mallards enter the playoffs as the seventh seed in the west they face the second seed- either the Fort Wayne Komets or Idaho Steelheads- in round one. The Komets enter the final night of the regular season one point ahead of the Steelheads. Fort Wayne hosts the Indy Fuel this evening while Idaho hosts the Missouri Mavericks. The Komets would win the tiebreaker if they finished even with the Steelheads. If the Mallards finish eighth they will meet the regular season champion Mavericks in the opening round.
The Grizzly Details
While the Mallards are just two points behind the Utah Grizzlies and would finish tied with Utah for sixth place in the conference if the Mallards win tonight and the Grizzlies lose to the Rapid City Rush in regulation, it is quite unlikely the Mallards would win a tiebreaker with Utah. If the Mallards won in a shootout tonight while Utah fell in regulation, the Mallards would lose the non-shootout wins tiebreaker to the Grizzlies, who have won 36 games in regulation or overtime. Even if the Mallards won tonight without going to the shootout while Utah lost in regulation and the Mallards thus finished even with the Grizzlies in both points and non-shootout victories, the next tiebreaker would be goal differential, a department in which Utah currently has a 14-goal advantage over the Mallards. The Grizzlies have scored 15 more goals (218) than they have allowed (203) while the Mallards have scored one more goal (200) than they have given up (199). If the goal differential tiebreaker came into play tonight and the Mallards were somehow able to make up that 14-goal gap, the Colorado Eagles would enter the picture as another potential first round opponent for the Mallards.
The Mallards have won four straight games to come within one victory of matching their longest winning streak of the season- they won five in a row between November 27 and December 6- and have gone 10-3-0 in their last 13 games. The Oilers- who were knocked out despite defeating Wichita 2-1 last night- have also won four straight, but only after losing their prior five games and going 4-12-0 in their prior 16 outings. Since February 21 the Mallards have gained 11 points on the Oilers by going 13-6-1 while Tulsa has gone 8-12-0.
After defeating Indy last Thursday, Cincinnati had a seven-point lead over the Mallards. However, three consecutive losses for the Cyclones- who fell last Friday against Evansville and last Saturday against Toledo- combined with the Mallards' four-game winning streak to push the Mallards into a one-point lead over Cincinnati.
The Mallards set a team season high for goals scored in one period by outgunning Cincinnati 4-1 in the third period last night. In each of their last two games, the Mallards have taken control in the third period after finishing the first 40 minutes tied. The Mallards outscored Fort Wayne 3-0 in the third Wednesday night on the way to a 4-1 victory.
With a win tonight the Mallards would reach 38 victories for the first time since they won 41 United Hockey League games in 2005-06. Tonight's season-closing contest is the Mallards' seventy-second; they played 76 games during the 2005-06 campaign. With a win tonight the Mallards would finish with 82 points and establish a new high water mark in their four seasons under Terry Ruskowski, surpassing last year's 81-point haul (though it should be noted the Mallards played only 66 games in the Central Hockey League in the first two seasons of Ruskowski's tenure). The Mallards last accumulated more than 82 points when they produced 85 over a 76-game UHL slate in 2006-07. With an overtime or shootout loss tonight, the Mallards would finish with the same record they posted last season: 37-28-7.
Home Sweet Home
By going 22-11-2 at home, the Mallards have now won more home games than they have in any campaign since they went 22-11-5 in 38 International Hockey League home games (compared to 36 this season) in 2009-10. The Mallards tonight have a chance to reach 23 home wins for the first time since 2005-06 when they went 23-13-2 in 38 UHL home games. The Mallards have posted a home winning percentage of .657, their highest since 2004-05 when they registered a .680 winning percentage over 39 UHL home games.
Between the Pipes
Brody Hoffman made 30 saves while earning the win in goal for the Mallards last night. Hoffman has won three straight starts (2.67, .928) and has gone 5-1-0 in his last six starts (1.84, .949).
Archambault made a three-point return to the Mallard line-up last night after missing the Mallards' win Wednesday night in Fort Wayne due to a lower body injury and has now recorded six points (three goals and three assists) in just his last three games. Archambault last night also moved into a tie with Matt Neal for the team lead in points (51).
Neal scored and picked up an assist last night and has piled up five points (two goals and three assists) in his last two games. Neal last night also extended his point-scoring streak to five games (2-7-9). Neal ranks sixth among ECHL rookies in assists (33) and is tied for seventh among rookies in points (51).
Jared Knight stretched his point-scoring streak to five games (3-3-6) by recording an assist last night. Knight has piled up nine points (three goals and six assists) in his last eight games.
After collecting two assists last night and three in his last two games, Mike Monfredo now ranks fourth among ECHL defensemen in assists (31) and is tied for seventh among blue liners in points (37). He will finish the season with career highs in both assists and points.
Should he, as expected, take the ice tonight, Alex Gudbranson will become the only Mallard to have played in each of the team's 72 regular season games.
Retiring Mallard captain Darren McMillan is set to play his four hundred fifteenth and final regular season game for the club tonight. McMillan, who first played for the Mallards in 2009 and has captained the team for the last six seasons (since 2010), has produced 20 goals, 88 assists and 108 points as a Mallard. On March 6 against Wichita- the team with whom he started his career in 2005- McMillan became just the third player in franchise history to play 400 games for the Mallards. In his 11 professional seasons McMillan- who turns 36 on April 23- has recorded 39 goals, 180 assists and 219 points in 672 career games.
By assisting on Brassart's first goal at 1:19 of the third period last night, Vladimir Nikiforov reached 300 career points. Just over four minutes later Nikiforov made it 301 when he assisted on Brassart's second goal.
Archambault scored the Mallards' third goal in four power plays when he converted the Mallards' first man advantage of last night's game in the second period after Tanner Eberle (5-on-3) and Gudbranson had scored back-to-back third period man advantage goals 31 seconds apart Wednesday night in Fort Wayne. By the end of last night, the Mallards- who went 1-for-2 against the Cyclones- had cashed in three of their last five power plays. The Mallards are now tied for fifteenth in the ECHL on the advantage (16.5 percent). After killing off all three Cyclone power plays last night, the Mallards have now survived eight straight opponent power plays as well 15 of their foes' last 16 advantages, 26 of their last 28 and 46 of their last 49. The Mallards have climbed into a tie for fifth in the league in penalty killing (85.5 percent).
Head to Head
The Mallards have gone 5-4-1 against the Cyclones this season and 3-2-0 against Cincinnati on home ice. All-time, they have gone 5-6-1 against the Cyclones overall and 3-4-0 at home.
Ins and Outs
Darren McMillan and Olivier Archambault returned to the Mallards' line-up last night after missing Wednesday night's game in Fort Wayne (lower body)...Zach Pochiro (upper body) missed last night's game.
Saturday, April 9, 7:05 p.m. CDT
Quad City Mallards vs. Cincinnati Cyclones
Listen: Fox Sports Radio 1230
Quad City Mallards
37-28-6, 80 points
2nd place, Midwest Division
Coach: Terry Ruskowski
35-27-9, 79 points
3rd place, Midwest Division
Coach: Matt MacDonald
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