Quad City Mallards vs Kansas City Mavericks hockey.

Quad-City Mallards forward Tyler Wong (5) tries to shoot past Kansas City Mavericks goalie Tyler Parsons during the second period Sunday. Wong was recalled by the AHL's Chicago Wolves Monday.

GARY KRAMBECK, Lee News Network

Branden Komm knows what it is like to play against and to be a part of the Quad-City Mallards.

The goaltender played his first game in net for the Mallards on Sunday, just three weeks after facing the Mallards with the Idaho Steelheads.

He liked what he saw then. He likes what he sees now.

"We've got a talented team, no doubt about that," he said. "I saw that when I played against them, they have the ability to put the puck in real quick."

Komm may think that, but the on-ice results say differently.

The Mallards lost three games last week, outscored 12-3 in the process.

Right now, a lot of that talent isn't even on the ice for the 6-8-0 Mallards, with Justin Kovacs, Jamie Tardif, Kyle Bigos and Garrett Klotz all trying to come back from injury. Goaltender C.J. Motte has spent the last month up in the AHL with the Chicago Wolves.

As a result, eight rookies saw the ice in Sunday's loss to Kansas City, many put in tough spots in their first year as professionals, including goaltender Ivan Kulbakov. Kulbakov made 11 straight starts before being spelled by Komm Sunday and has a 55-save lead for most in the league.

"We've got to get healed up," head coach Phil Axtell said. "We're missing some firepower ... it's easy to point fingers but obviously it's frustrating."

Perhaps the biggest loss has been the one that happened before the puck ever dropped on the season.

Chris Francis was one of Axtell's first signings in the summer with the expectation he would pick up from last year when he led the team as a captain and also scored 27 goals and tallied 60 points in 63 games.

Francis never saw the ice, cut by the team just before the start of the season after suffering an injury before camp commenced that caused him to fail his physical.

It's a loss that could have been fixed if it had happened in July or August, but with it coming in October, it left Axtell and the Mallards unable to really patch the hole.

"It's kind of hard to find those high-dollar guys because they're already taken," Axtell said. "That's what you build your team around. He was my second signing and it's huge."

Some players have stepped up. Sam Warning has 10 goals and three assists, and Brayden Low has five goals in his last seven games.

But they can't do everything as other players need to grab the rope and pull when needed.

Axtell is on the hunt to try and bring someone in to fill the void left by Francis but even getting the players currently on the roster back healthy would be beneficial, if only to help the rookies acclimate to the rigors of ECHL hockey, where there's only three lines and games are more than just on the weekend.

There also has not been, and likely will not be, much help from the Chicago Wolves, who have depth issues of their own as both are adjusting to life as the affiliate of the expansion Vegas Golden Knights.

Motte isn't likely to return any time soon and forward Tyler Wong was recalled back to the Wolves Monday after scoring one goal and one assist in six games with the Mallards.

So it's up to the players currently with the team to take care of business.

"It's just the time that guys need to step up," forward Ryan McGrath said. "It gives other guys a chance to get into the lineup and make an impression. With the group we have in the locker room, it's a good culture, it's a good winning team, we've just got to figure it out down the stretch.

"It's one thing to say it, obviously it's a little tough with these losses, but I think the guys in the room know what we have, we play hard. We've had good games where we've won, we've just got to continue that every night."

Motte update: C.J. Motte saw his only action of last week on Sunday in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Rockford IceHogs. Motte made 36 saves in the game. In three contests this season, Motte is 1-1-1 with a 2.30 goals against average and a .922 save percentage. In his AHL career, Motte is 3-3-2 with a 2.15 goals against average and a .929 save percentage.

This week: The Mallards play a home-and-home series with the Wichita Thunder this week. The Mallards host the Thunder — who are 11-2-1 and in first place in the Mountain Division — on Friday at 7 p.m. Along with $2 Dogs/$2 Beers presented by 97X, the Mallards will hold a Teddy Bear Toss presented by R.I.A. Federal Credit Union. Fans who bring stuffed animals to the game can toss them on the ice following the team's first goal.

The game is the Mallards' last at the TaxSlayer Center until Dec. 20 as the team embarks on a nine-game road trip.

The Mallards travel to Wichita on Saturday to face the Thunder at INTRUST Bank Arena at 7:05 p.m. These are the first meetings of the year between the two teams.

Quad-City heads to Independence, Missouri, on Sunday to face the Kansas City Mavericks at 4:05 p.m. The Mallards are 0-2-0 against the Mavericks this season.

0
0
0
0
0

Sports reporter for the Quad-City Times