With no goals through the first two games of the playoffs, Quad-City Mallards forward Thomas Frazee voiced some frustrations early in the week with some volatile words directed toward Rapid City Rush captain Scott Wray.
The rookie made sure to atone for his actions after letting his play do the talking, scoring two goals and an assist in a 5-1 win Wednesday night at the iWireless Center.
"First off, I do owe Wray an apology," Frazee said. "He's a great player and a vet in this league and I shouldn't have said what I said."
The victory gives the Mallards a 2-1 series lead in the first-round Central Hockey League playoff matchup with Game 4 on Friday night back at the iWireless Center.
Frazee's first goal at the 15-minute, 28-second mark of the second period tied the game after a bad bounce had given the Rush the early 1-0 lead.
"It was pretty nerve-wracking before the game ... and I just wanted to come out and play well," said Frazee, who led the Mallards in goals scored during the regular season. "I didn't want to come out and not play hard."
Frazee took the puck in on a 2-on-1 rush and unleashed a slapshot from the right circle that beat Rush goaltender Tim Boron up high, energizing the crowd and Frazee, who celebrated with a one-kneed fist pump.
"He's got a very good shot," coach Terry Ruskowski said. "When he has time to really rifle it and hit the net, it's a pretty devastating shot."
Frazee added an assist later in the period on Jeff Lee's go-ahead and ultimately game-winning power-play goal at 19:42.
The Mallards special teams have been key so far in this series as the goal was the third on the man advantage for Quad-City.
"It's something that we struggled with at the start of the year," Lee said. "It's something we worked on all season and it's starting to click now."
The second period was a showcase in tight defensive play as both teams combined for 13 shots and were unable to garner quality scoring chances. The few chances for both teams were easily stopped by Boron and Heemskerk, who made 30 saves for his sixth straight win, his second of the postseason after sitting out Game 1.
"It's been a great feeling for the whole team," Heemskerk said. "Taking our first advantage of the series is a good feeling. Hopefully we build on it."
After Mike Stinziani gave the Mallards a 3-1 lead at 11:18 in the third period on an assist from Justin Fox, Frazee added an empty-net goal at 18:45.
"They capitalized on their chances," Rush captain Scott Wray said. "They're a quick transitional team and when you let them play that way, they capitalize."
Jordan Mayer added an exclamation point with his first goal of the playoffs. The 5-1 win equals the 5-1 loss the Mallards suffered in Game 1.
"We want to try and carry momentum like we did in the third on to the next game," Stinziani said. "But we need to refocus. The goals we scored today aren't going to win the next game."
The Rush scored first Wednesday on a strange sequence of events. A quick shot off an offensive-zone faceoff by the Rush seemed to surprise Mallards goaltender Thomas Heemskerk, who was unable to hang on to the shot.
The puck trickled off his pad and out to Sean Erickson in the slot, whose shot went into the net, along with Wray, who went flying into the net after tripping over Heemskerk. After gathering to confer, the officials ruled the play a goal, crediting it to Erickson, causing the 3,874 fans to erupt with displeasure.
"I didn't see it," Heemskerk said. "I knew there was a guy behind me, he wasn't interfering. It was kind of strange how that happened. I didn't see it get shot and then the ref was pointing that it was in."
The Mallards didn't let the bad bounce affect their morale, as they outshot the Rush 9-2 the rest of the period, complete with the goals from Frazee and Lee.
"At home it's a little bit different," Ruskowski said. "You've got your crowd behind you and momentum and everything should be your way ... I think that was one of the factors in us coming back."