WICHITA, Kansas — The Quad-City Mallards have to figure out how to start strong on the road.
The Mallards allowed three first-period goals in a 4-2 loss to the Mountain Division-leading Wichita Thunder at INTRUST Bank Arena, the team's fifth straight loss.
The Mallards are now 0-4-0 on the road and have been outscored 19-5 away from the TaxSlayer Center.
In those games, the Mallards have been outscored 11-1 in the first period.
"We have to stick to the game plan," head coach Phil Axtell said. "Everyone, not four guys on the ice, not three, all five guys, and until we do that, it's not going to be fun."
The Mallards played well in the first half of the first period, but things changed midway through.
Travis Ewanyk scored on a sharp angle shot to put Wichita up 1-0 at the 12-minute, 21-second mark of the period. Travis Brown followed that up with a goal at 16:09, then scored his second at 19:28, just seven seconds into a power play.
"I thought we had an excellent start in the first half of the first period until they got that first one," Axtell said. "Then we go out, a turnover ends up in the back of the net, take a penalty, they score, and now we're digging ourselves out of a hole."
It's the third straight game the Mallards have allowed a goal in the final minute of a period.
Sam Warning put the Mallards on the board in the second period, capitalizing on a 5-on-3 opportunity with his 11th goal of the season to cut the Wichita lead to 3-1. The Mallards had two chances quickly after to cut into the lead some more but didn't bury them.
Instead, the Mallards penalty kill unit was tested, having to kill off 70 seconds of a 5-on-3, and it stood up to the task to keep the deficit at two goals.
Etienne Boutet scored midway through the period to put Wichita up 4-1 before Matt Pohlkamp scored his fourth goal of the season at 19:14 in the second period to cut the lead to 4-2 heading into the second intermission.
Neither team scored in the third period, despite the Mallards having two power play chances, finishing 1-of-6 on the man advantage in the game.
"We've got to be better," Axtell said. "We had a 2-on-0, we had a breakaway, we're not capitalizing so it's frustrating."
Ivan Kulbakov made 21 saves for the Mallards and Shane Starrett made 25 for the Thunder.
Prior to the game the Mallards activated defenseman Kyle Bigos from injured reserve and put forward Justin Kovacs on injured reserve retroactive to Nov. 13. Kovacs has not played since suffering an upper body injury in the Mallards' win over the Indy Fuel on Nov. 12.
The Mallards now travel to Kansas City to take on the Mavericks today at 4:05 p.m.