In seasons past, the Quad-City Mallards and Fort Wayne Komets played some memorable, hard-fought games and series.
Last year the two teams met in the first round of the ECHL playoffs.
Memories of those battles have been hard to find this season, and Fort Wayne continued its dominance of Quad-City on Saturday night with a 5-1 win at the TaxSlayer Center.
The Mallards have yet to beat their longtime rival, falling to 0-5-1 this season against the Komets. The Mallards have now lost consecutive games after going on a four-game winning streak.
Fort Wayne, meanwhile, has won six straight games and 11 of its last 12.
"The biggest thing right now is our mental game. I think we have the effort right now, we came off a bit of a winning streak, and I think we maybe got a little bit overconfident," defenseman Jake Bolton said. "Right now, that's the second place team (in the division), and that's a tough score for us, but at the end of the day I think a lot of the mistakes we're making are mental."
After a scoreless first period, Trevor Cheek opened the scoring at the 1-minute, 31-second mark of the period, capitalizing on a miscue from Ivan Kulbakov. The Mallards goaltender got caught out of his net trying to get the puck off the stick of Justin Hodgman. Kulbakov missed the puck, instead leaving a wide open net for Cheek to bury the puck off of Hodgman’s pass.
Mason Baptista made it 2-0 55 seconds later, continuing his strong season. Baptista played four games with the Mallards in 2015, tallying three assists, but is having a career year with the Komets. He added a second goal in the third period and now has a career-high 17 goals this season and 43 points through 42 games.
"It's unreal, it's phenomenal. That's what the league is for," said Mallards head coach Phil Axtell, who was an assistant when Baptista was with the team. "He came here, he went back to school to graduate ... he grinded, he worked hard and improved himself. He got an opportunity in Fort Wayne and developed into one heckuva player."
Bolton answered back for the Mallards, scoring a power play goal at 15:54 in the second period, snapping a shutout streak of 166:44 for the Komets against the Mallards. The Mallards last scored against the Komets at 9:10 in the third period of an overtime loss on Dec. 20.
"We're getting a lot of pucks to the net. When we were in our rut, where we had a pretty solid losing streak, we weren't getting shots on the net. We were getting outshot by a lot," Bolton said. "We're keeping up now, we're getting on the rush, we're putting pucks on the net, and we are getting those chances. Sometimes you get the bounces and sometimes you don't, but the biggest thing is you've got to earn them."
The Komets regained the two-goal lead heading into the third period after a shot found its way through plenty of traffic, giving Bobby Shea a goal at 18:02 in the period.
Baptista added his second goal, then Dennis Kravchenko scored 38 seconds later, the final goal of the game. The Mallards have now been outscored in the season series 34-9.
The two teams meet again today in Fort Wayne and two more times after that.
"When you're playing a team fighting for first place in the division, 10 of 11, five in a row, three of the top goal-scorers in the league, you can't take shifts off," Axtell said. "You can't have mental breakdowns. You can't lose focus for even half a shift or it ends up like it does tonight."