Maybe it was a rookie mistake. Maybe it was a goalie protecting himself. Maybe it was a night of frustration watching his offense get stymied at the other end.
Whatever the reason, Quad-City Mallards goaltender Ty Rimmer's holding penalty on David Rutherford midway through a scoreless third period proved costly as the Arizona Sundogs scored on the ensuing power play to beat the Mallards 1-0 Saturday night at the iWireless Center.
"(Rutherford) was cutting my net tight," Rimmer said. "They'd been doing it all game and I was standing on the post, and he ran into me, and I just pushed him. He, I'd say, embellished quite a bit. Not that strong of a guy."
The previous play, Rutherford crashed the net, knocking down Rimmer, something the Sundogs had been doing all game.
"He was laying on top of me, laying on top of my legs, and there was no call there," Rimmer said. "So he comes to the net again, the very next play, I'm going to protect myself."
Garrett Clarke's shot from the point on the ensuing power play was tipped in by Ian Schultz at the 13-minute, 19-second mark of the period.
"It was a point shot through a screen," Rimmer said. "Schultz is a pretty big body in front. I looked over his right shoulder, puck went left, he deflected it pretty much right off the post. It was a good power play goal."
The loss is the fourth straight at home for the Mallards, who are reeling following the call-ups of Jim McKenzie and Nicholas Rioux to the American Hockey League's Iowa Wild. They have lost three consecutive games for the second time this season.
"We didn't come out, we didn't play very well to start again, and I don't know why," coach Terry Ruskowski said. "We struggled coming out of the blocks, and thank goodness for good goaltending again."
Rimmer kept the Mallards in the game early as the team struggled to get an offensive rush established. They didn't register a shot on goal for the first six minutes, the second night in a row the team struggled offensively early.
"We're having brutal starts," forward Mike Hellyer said. "It feels like we have slow starts and then we come hard at the end. We have some work to do in practice, maybe change up our routines, or do something different before the game to get ourselves ready."
On the other end, the Mallards suffered from poor defensive-zone coverage and mental mistakes, testing Rimmer, who stopped every chance, including a 3-on-1 rush midway through the period.
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"Rimmer played really well," defenseman Tyler Yaworski said. "He's been good all year ... so it was good for him to step up like that. Obviously, we would have liked to give him some run support."
The Mallards did pick up their offensive pressure at the end of the first period and had several quality chances throughout the rest of what was a physical game.
While Rimmer was good, Sundogs goaltender Andrew Engelage was better.
Engelage stopped 24 shots to collect his third-straight shutout, extending his scoreless stretch to 206 minutes, 25 seconds.
"He's a big goalie," Hellyer said. "He's big and he moves well. It's not going to be the first shot that's going to beat him, it's going to be the second or third one. I think we had a few good chances, but on those second and third opportunities, when we had them, we need to bury."