Throughout the adversity that surrounded a 13-game losing streak, Quad-City Mallards head coach Phil Axtell learned a lot about his team.
"I learned we have a group of guys here that are extremely passionate about each other and about the organization and the game," Axtell said. "I learned we have a good, passionate group of guys here that want to get better and they want to win."
Winning hasn't come easy for the Mallards this season as the team sits at the bottom of the league standings with just nine wins and 21 points heading into Friday's game with Kalamazoo.
It's been a tough few weeks for the Mallards, the struggles going beyond the ice. Axtell didn't make a road trip with the team two weeks ago and owner Jordan Melville spent last week talking to everyone in the organization about the future of his team.
It worked for one night as the Mallards snapped their losing streak with a win over the Indy Fuel last Friday. Though the team couldn't build on that victory, falling to the Fuel the next day, all that happened over the last two weeks gave the team a much-needed jolt.
"If you came to a practice two weeks ago, you would have fallen asleep watching it," defenseman Kyle Follmer said. "I think everyone needed a kick in the (butt). Phil needed to wake up, (assistant coach Mike Leone) needed to wake up, guys needed to wake up. It wasn't one person, we all needed to wake up."
The Mallards did look more awake over the weekend, rallying from multiple deficits in the win and, outside of a three-minute stretch in which they allowed three goals, outplayed the Fuel on Saturday in the loss.
Every season has ups and downs for every team. Though this valley might be too deep for the Mallards to dig out of, the players feel like there's still a lot to play for.
"I think the adversity was a good thing, maybe it happened too late in the season with a 13-game skid," Follmer said. "I wish it would have happened sooner but if we play like (we did this weekend), there's no reason we can't make a push for that eight-spot (in the playoffs)."
Perennially optimistic and ambitious, the Mallards would have to put together one of the more impressive second halves to reach that goal.
Since the Mallards joined the ECHL, the lowest point total to reach the playoffs was 76 by Wheeling in 2015. For the Mallards to reach that total, they'd have to go 27-10-1.
The average point total of playoff teams over the last three seasons is 90. For the Mallards to reach that point total, they'd have to go 34-3-1. So it's safe to assume that for the Mallards to make the playoffs, they have to win somewhere around 30 of their remaining 38 games.
It's a tall task but that doesn't mean they're not going to try, and after a brief respite during the all-star break, they feel refreshed enough to put forth their best effort.
"We've been through a ton as a team, there's been a ton of stuff that's been going on and we've battled as a team. A ton of adversity, a ton of trials and we've come out a stronger team, we've come out a better team," forward Alex Globke said. "I think, as a team we all needed a little rest, a little relaxation, a little time away from the rink I think just to clear our heads, get our heads right and come back.
"I think we've shown the team we can be and if we come back with the same mentality next weekend, we'll definitely see good results."
Mallards switch goalies: Goaltender Jake Paterson was recalled from the Mallards by the Milwaukee Admirals on Monday while goaltender Matt O'Connor was reassigned to the Mallards from Milwaukee.
Paterson made 28 saves in a 4-3 loss to Indy on Saturday, his only action with the Mallards this season. O'Connor has gone 0-4-2 with a .512 goals against average and a .853 save percentage in six games with the Mallards this season.
All-star details announced: One day after the 2018 all-star weekend came to a close, the ECHL announced the details for the 2019 CCM/ECHL All-Star Classic.
The event will take place in Toledo at the Huntington Center on Jan. 21, 2019 and will again feature a 3-on-3 tournament between four teams, similar to Monday's event.
Next year, however, two of the four teams will consist of players from the Walleye and they will take on two teams featuring players from the Eastern and Western Conference.
The first round will be round-robin style, with each team competing in six consecutive eight-minute running clock games. All four teams will advance to the second round and will be re-seeded on total score, then play two eight-minute running clock games to decide the final.
This week: The Mallards host the Kalamazoo Wings on Friday at 7 p.m. The Mallards will be wearing special edition Captain America jerseys during the game as part of the league-wide Marvel Night promotion that goes throughout the season. The jerseys will go up for bid in an online auction later this season. Friday is also $2 Dogs/$2 Beers presented by 97X.
Saturday the Mallards travel to Kalamazoo, Michigan to take on the Wings at 6 p.m. The Mallards are 0-2-0 against the Wings this season.
Sunday the Mallards return to the TaxSlayer Center to host the Cincinnati Cyclones at 4 p.m. Sodas are $1 at concession stands and there will be a postgame skate with the team. The Mallards are 0-4-1 this season against the Cyclones.
Saturday and Sunday's games can be heard on Fox Sports Radio 1230 AM.