The largest crowd of the season for the Quad-City Mallards was treated to a show Saturday night.
Gabriel Levesque's first professional hat trick propelled the Mallards to a 6-3 victory over the St. Charles Chill at the iWireless Center.
"I'm not a scorer, I'm a playmaker, so it feels weird," said Levesque, who leads the Mallards with 14 goals on the season. "I'm glad. I'll take it. Perfect crowd, great timing. It doesn't get any better than that."
Levesque's third goal of the night at the 17-minute, 45-second mark of the second period brought hats flying in from the stands as the 8,761 fans on hand for John Deere Night saw the first Quad-City hat trick since Mickey Lang and Mike Stinziani accomplished the feat on Jan. 19, 2013. Levesque also added an assist for a four-point night.
"It was a good day for him," coach Terry Ruskowski said. "I hope he does that every night."
Levesque got his night started midway into the first period, putting home a rebound from a slapshot by Mike Monfredo on a power play at 8:28.
"He positioned himself very well," Ruskowski said. "He went to the net, and when you go to the net good things happen."
Matt Duffy put the Mallards up 2-0 less than 2 minutes later, but the Chill responded with a goal of their own.
Levesque put the idea of a hat trick into the minds of the fans with 3 minutes left in the first period, scoring his second power-play goal of the night.
"I thought about it, but I'm not thinking sometimes about the goal," Levesque said. "I'm just thinking about having fun on the ice, working hard and it's going to come."
The Chill quickly responded with a power-play goal of their own to trail 3-2 at the first intermission.
"Two breakdowns in the first," said Mallards goalie Ty Rimmer, who made 25 saves. "We missed our assignments in the slot, and guys are good enough now, if you give them that chance, they're going to bury it or I'm going to have to come up big."
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Both teams struggled to get any offensive momentum in the second period as numerous stoppages of play for icings and offsides lulled the crowd to sleep.
Levesque woke them up.
Matt Boyd's shot off a rush rebounded to Nicholas Rioux, whose attempts to bang the puck home proved fruitless, but the puck leaked out to Levesque at the goal line for the easy goal.
"I was like, finally," Levesque said. "Finally, it's about time. I don't have a great season so far, and I expect more about myself. I'm glad that it happened and I hope it's going to be the start (of something good)."
From there, it devolved into an ugly game of penalties and fights as the two teams continued to add to what has become a heated rivalry in the expansion Chill's first year.
"It just happens when you play a team that much," said Mike Hellyer, who took a fighting major penalty in the period. "It's that time of year when you're scrambling for points and every inch is really important. When they're pushing back, you kind of want to draw the line in the sand and step over it."
Monfredo and Thomas Frazee added goals in the third period to seal the win for the Mallards, who play the Chill again today in St. Charles.