The Quad-City Mallards had a golden opportunity.
After Rapid City Rush forward Garrett Klotz was given a major penalty for charging, the Mallards found themselves on a five-minute power play, down by one goal with nearly nine minutes left in regulation.
Of course, the Mallards squandered that chance, fitting coming from the worst team in the league.
The Mallards only mustered three shots on goal and one quality chance during those five minutes, falling 4-1 to the Rush and slipping one point behind Rapid City for last place in the league standings with two games left in their ECHL tenure.
"It was disappointing because that was our big opportunity to get back in the game, and we were just sloppy," forward Matt Pohlkamp said. "You've got to take advantage of those opportunities. When they give you, I don't want to call it a gift, but that five minutes, you've got to bear down and get a goal or maybe two to go up 3-2 instead of losing that."
It would have been one thing if the Mallards were turned away by solid goaltending during that stretch. However, the Mallards spent good chunks of those five minutes chasing the puck down in their own zone and making sure they weren't scored on by Rapid City.
"It's embarrassing," head coach Phil Axtell said. “No execution. I don't know what they were doing."
With two games left in the season, and possibly in franchise history, Axtell didn't have much to say, other than express regret about how the season turned out.
"I’m sorry," he said. "If I had the ability to go back this season, I would have made different decisions."
Pohlkamp gave the Mallards a 1-0 lead with his team-leading 18th goal of the season 13 minutes into the game.
Aaron Boyd tied the game in the second period, establishing position in the slot as the puck went off his skate at 8:57. Alec Baer gave the Rush the lead at 5:57 in the third period.
Baer's shot ricocheted off the stick of Mallards defenseman Willie Raskob and over the head of goaltender C.J. Motte, another bounce this season that cost the Mallards.
"Kind of a cumulative of what we've seen this season, those unlucky bounces. Obviously we put ourselves in a situation where we've allowed those bounces to happen," Raskob said. "It's something you have to compartmentalize and take the good with the bad. It's something that doesn't just happen on the ice; it happens off the ice too with taking care of your body."
The Rush added two empty-net goals in the final minute to ice the game.
"They out-chanced us, they outplayed us, we didn't execute, we did nothing we were supposed to do," Axtell said. "We didn't win the houses, we didn't win the blue lines, we didn't get pucks out, we didn't get pucks in. We didn't play 60 minutes."
The Mallards outshot the Rush 53-41, but Christian Frey made 52 saves in net.
"That alone is pretty impressive," Pohlkamp said. "I know he stopped me on a few good opportunities I had. I was a little upset with myself, but hats off to him. He played a good game."
The Mallards now have two games left in their ECHL tenure. The team hosts the Kalamazoo Wings on Friday and the Cincinnati Cyclones on Saturday. Both teams are fighting for a playoff spot, and with the added emotion of the team ceasing operations, the Mallards will look to put a better effort out on the ice.
"Obviously Quad-City has had a team here for a long time, and they've got really loyal fans," Raskob said. "These are two big games. The teams coming in are pushing for a playoff spot so when you're in a situation like this, you're looking to spoil their push.
"Hopefully the place will be buzzing and we can put on a good show for them."