Quad City scored twice Friday night against the Thunder on the power play – one was an empty-net goal in the final 90 seconds – and those goals are almost excusable. It’s difficult to defend five players with four.
According to Wichita coach Kevin McClelland, defense shouldn’t be as difficult when the sides are even. But a failed assignment in the second period let to Quad City’s only even strength goal and broke a tie in the Mallards’ 3-1 win at Intrust Bank Arena.
Defenseman Mike McIntyre, in his sixth ECHL game after playing at a lower level for the first 26 games of this season, lost track of Antti Pusa as Pusa emerged from behind the net.
McIntyre fell down as he attempted to chase down Pusa, and Pusa had a clear lane for a point-blank shot, which he converted to put the Mallards ahead 2-1. That was essentially the difference, since Wichita wouldn’t have needed to pull goalie Tim Boron late if the game had remained tied.
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“Their goal at the end of the second period is unacceptable,” McClelland said. “That just shows me certain guys can’t play here. That will be addressed. I can’t address it in the next 24 hours, but that will be addressed.
“It’s a goal that shouldn’t go in our net.…We stand there covered up. We end up icing (the puck), and sure enough we’ve got the wrong personnel on the ice and there’s nothing we can do about it. And sure enough it’s in our net.”
The loss was damaging for the Thunder, which saw its lead over Quad City for second place in the Central division shrink to two points – the teams have played four times this month and play twice more over the next week.
Familiarity appears to have bred contempt, as the intra-division combatants played a hard-hitting game, the tone for which was set when Erick Lizon took down Quad City’s Paxton Leroux during a first period fight.
The tussle inspired several forceful checks and helped lead to a more all-encompassing brawl at the end of the second period.
“(Lizon) is so strong,” said Thunder forward Kenton Miller, who scored Wichita’s only goal. “He can stand up for himself and he stands up for everybody else. He’s just a guy everybody wants on their team and we’re lucky to have him on ours.”
The Thunder scored first but trailed 2-1 after the second period thanks to Quad City’s first extra-man goal and the defensive failure later. After Michael Trebish took a Mallards player down with a hard hit against the board, aggressiveness took over for the brief offensive flurry.
Trebish and Darren McMillan fought to the ice at the end of the period. At the same time, Dan Milan fought with Mallards defenseman Mike Monfredo, and the scuffles led to 42 penalty minutes for the four players and game misconduct violations for Milan and McMillan.
“It was a big game in the standings, and that’s what we’ve got to realize as a hockey club,” McClelland said when addressing Friday’s physicality.
Wichita emerged from the melee with third-period momentum, which it used to create a high volume of shots but no goals. The Thunder hit the post with multiple shots and saw others stopped by Parker Milner, who had 30 saves.
“It’s probably a combination (of misfortune and Milner’s performance),” Miller said. “We were working hard, we were getting a lot of shots. When they’re going off the post, they’re an inch or less from going in.”
Scoring—None. Penalties—Quad City, Leroux (removing the helmet), 4:46; Quad City, Leroux (fighting major), 4:46; Wichita, Lizon (removing the helmet), 4:46; Wichita, Lizon (fighting major), 4:46; Quad City, Nelson (slashing), 11:38; Quad City, Fox (delay of game), 12:03.
Scoring—1. Wichita, Miller (MacIntyre, Duval), 2:04; 2. Quad City, Duffy PP (Christensen, Lamoreux), 9:16; 3. Quad City, Pusa (Fox), 18:48. Penalties—Quad City, Baker (misconduct), 7:05; Quad City, Grasso (tripping), 7:05; Quad City, Miller (holding), 7:17; Quad City, Fiddler (goalie interference), 12:57; Quad City, Perry (roughing), 19:33; Wichita, Tulupov (roughing), 19:33; Quad City, Fox (roughing), 20:00; Quad City, McMillan (fighting major), 20:00; Quad City, McMillan (game misconduct, second altercation), 20:00; Quad City, Monfredo (fighting major), 20:00; Wichita, Milan (fighting major); 20:00; Wichita, Trebish (fighting major); 20:00; Wichita, Trebish (game misconduct, second altercation), 20:00.
Scoring—4. Quad City, Monfredo empty-net PP (Rioux), 18:47. Penalties—Quad City, Lamoureux (roughing), 9:01; Wichita, Walker (roughing), 9:01; Wichita, Flath (hooking), 16:52; Quad City, Baker (hooking), 19:02; Wichita, Lowe (slashing), 20:00.
Power play—Quad City 2-3, Wichita 0-5. Shots—Quad City 6-5-11—22, Wichita 9-9-13-31. Saves—Quad City, Milner 30-31; Wichita, Boron 19-21.