Alumni weekend is next week for the Quad-City Mallards, but that didn’t stop some former players from having some fun Wednesday night.
Three goals were scored by former members of the Mallards as the Fort Wayne Komets beat the Mallards 6-2, the second time this season the Komets have rung up six goals on their Central Division rival.
Kyle Thomas scored two goals and added an assist, while Mason Baptista scored a goal, but the tradition of former Mallards beating their old team goes back a ways, including Joe Perry's hat trick with the Komets last season, and multiple times in the Central Hockey League.
"I think kind of maybe there's a Quad-City curse or something that guys can do well when they come back here," goaltender P.J. Musico said. "Being able to beat the team you used to play with is a good feeling ... I loved playing here ... I can't say enough about the organization since they gave me a shot last year and you never know, you might be back playing under the same guys."
Musico completed the trifecta, returning to the iWireless Center for the first time since playing in net for the Mallards' season-ending defeat to the Missouri Mavericks in the playoffs last year.
In his first game since being traded by the Greenville Swamp Rabbits on Dec 29, Musico made 29 saves, and recovered nicely after allowing the first goal of the game to Michael Parks that put the Mallards up 1-0 less than six minutes into the period.
Baptista scored five minutes later, and Thomas gave the Komets a lead they never relinquished at the 14-minute, 47-second mark of the period.
"They're a patient hockey team, they're a veteran hockey team," head coach Terry Ruskowski said. "They sit back until you make a mistake and we made mistakes, from the defense, to the goalies, to the forwards. It was one of those bad games where we got our (butts) kicked)."
There weren't many bright spots from the current Mallards. After Mike Embach scored to give the Komets a 3-1 first period lead, Brady Brassart cut the lead to 3-2 at 1:11 in the second, but Thomas notched his second goal, and the Mallards never got another puck past Musico.
With all-star goaltender C.J. Motte up in the AHL, the Mallards signed goalie Tanner Milliron prior to the game. Milliron skated with the Mallards in training camp and was 6-7-1 this season in the SPHL with the Evansville Thunderbolts.
After a largely ineffective two periods from goaltender Adam Vay and the Mallards defense, Ruskowski subbed Milliron in to start the third period, and he allowed two goals on seven shots after Vay allowed four on 21.
The Mallards still have confidence in their goaltending to get the job done as long as Motte is gone.
"We always feel confident with our goalies," said defenseman Jake Baker, who was a team-worst minus-4 in his second game since being reassigned from Manitoba. "Sometimes they don't go your way and sometimes they do. They're both good goalies and we can obviously win with them in the net any time."
As far as Ruskowski is concerned, the problems stretch beyond who is in net. The loss drops the Mallards three points back of the Komets in the division, and that nine-point cushion on the final playoff spot could start to dwindle if those issues aren't fixed.
"I couldn't pick a guy that stood out defensively," Ruskowski said. "I'm more concerned with our defensive game than I am with our goalies. I really thought our last two games, we haven't played well defensively, and that's what bothers me."