MOLINE, IL — The Quad City Storm celebrated on Saturday the 25th anniversary of the Quad City Mallards’ first Colonial Cup win, featuring the return of Mallards alumni from each of the leagues. The fun began the night before with an alumni game between the Mallards and Flint Generals, the Mallards’ heated rival from the days of the Colonial Hockey League and United Hockey League. The Storm took on the Evansville Thunderbolts in the first game of a home and home series, defeating the visiting team 4-1.
Friday night featured the return of many Mallards alumni, who put on the skates once more for a charity game benefiting the Breast Cancer Prevention and Detection program through the Genesis Health Services Foundation. During an almost hour-long pregame ceremony, a new banner was unfurled to honor former Mallards President/GM Howard Cornfield, dubbed the Head Duck. The banner commemorates the Mallards’ successes during Cornfield’s tenure as GM/President, during which time the Mallards went 451-175-50, won three Colonial Cups in their first six years, won 50 or more games per season from 1996-97 to 2001-02, and never missed the playoffs.
The charity game was dubbed Heroes versus Villains, as the Mallards had been called the Evil Empire by Flint Generals head coach Robbie Nichols due to their dynasty. This theme was complete with the playing of the Star Wars main theme during an opening crawl setting up the charity game as one final battle between good and evil, Mallards and Generals. The Mallards lost 7-4 after two empty-net goals were scored, though the Mallards’ scoring had been bolstered by a hattrick from Brendan Brooks. Nearly 6,000 fans attended Friday’s charity game, with over 4000 attending Saturday’s match-up.
Following Friday’s game players from both teams were available to sign autographs in a meet and greet at the TaxSlayer Center during a ticketed event. The following night, the Storm offered a free meet and greet with former Mallards and even former Storm player Al Graves. Prior to Saturday’s game, the Storm held a moment of silence for former Quad City Mallard and Storm player Vladimir Nikiforov, who passed away last month at the age of 34.
The Storm looked to be on their heels starting Saturday’s game, Evansville controlling play for much of the first ten minutes of the game. The tides quickly turned, however, following a scrap by Michael Moran with Tyson Kirkby at 14:07. A minute later, Cole Golka and Hayden Hulton also dropped the gloves, and Golka was assessed a minor for high sticking at the same time, leading to a crowded penalty box for the Storm. It was while the boxes were full that the Storm scored their first goal of the night, Tommy Tsicos lighting the lamp while on the penalty kill.
“Sometimes it’s not that easy to get [the big crowd] involved, but that was our game plan obviously. I thought we executed it for the most part,” Storm head coach Dave Pszenyczny said following Saturday’s game. “There were little hiccups there but that’s just normal, especially with the ice being bad with the humidity and stuff. I thought the boys battled hard through the end. … You have to get [the crowd] engaged in the game because they’re putting on a good performance. I thought we did a great job at the start doing that, obviously, a couple of tilts helped out. Never a dull moment out there.”
Recent signee Ben Duperreault made his professional debut on Saturday, scoring his first two professional goals in the process.
“He’s the guy that has maybe junior experience. [Assistant coach] Jake [Toporowski] and I both have that background as well. We feel that, especially at this level, could really inject those players and they’re gonna be impact players right away and they have been so far for us so we’re happy about that. He’s got a hell of a shot, the guy competes even when he’s up along the boards with the puck. He’s just constantly moving speed. He just opens up so many players on the ice.”
The Storm will be on the road until March 26th, the final home game of the regular season, when they take on the Peoria Rivermen. There are only ten more games left in the regular season, and the Storm are fighting for a higher seeding as they currently sit in fourth place in the league. Currently, the focus is on finding new chemistry with new faces from college.
“We’re gonna try to inject some new faces in the lineup, give them some reps,” said Pszenyczny about Sunday’s game plan in Evansville. “We’ve got a lot of tough decisions here, with three guys in the IR, we have two guys in PTOs. It’s just very difficult because when the team’s rolling, we don’t want to mess up chemistry. We’re just really trying to sort that out right now and there are things that are out of our control, call ups and stuff. I’ve got to get in there and sort it out, but tomorrow no, just play the same way. We know that they’re gonna play the other goalie there, [Ryan] Edquist. It’s unfortunate [Brian] Billett got hurt there [in the third period] and made a hell of a save while he was hurt. At the end of the day, we want the two points.”
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