Some costly plays and a lack of discipline late cost the Quad-City Mallards a big two points.
The Mallards allowed two third-period goals in a 4-3 loss to the Fort Wayne Komets on Wednesday night. The loss snapped a four-game winning streak and prevented the Mallards from jumping the Komets into third place in the Central Division standings.
"It is a big deal for me," head coach Terry Ruskowski said. "We had a chance to show what we could do on home ice and we didn't do it."
Brady Vail scored the game-winning goal, firing a shot off the crossbar and past goalie C.J. Motte at the 7-minute, 12-second mark of the third period. Vail's goal came less than five minutes after a go-ahead goal from Mike Cazzola.
The Mallards took four penalties in the third period and only mustered four shots on net.
"We knew going in we had to play a pretty solid game and for the most part we played pretty well but a couple turnovers they took advantage of," said Motte, who allowed four goals for the first time this season. "We have to take it as a learning experience. Take away what we can and go from there."
Chris Francis scored a shorthanded goal — the 100th of his career — to cut the lead to 4-3 but the Mallards couldn't grab the equalizer despite chances with Motte on the bench, including a look from Francis that missed the net.
Though he scored the shorthanded goal, Francis also had a hand in the Komets' second goal of the game. Tied 1-1, Francis tried a drop pass entering the offensive zone, only to be intercepted and give the Komets a 3-on-1 rush and a goal from Jamie Schaafsma.
"It's just a bad play," Ruskowski said. "You count on your captain, your leader to not make those types of plays. His responsibility is to lead in the dressing room and lead on the ice by example and that's not the example you want to see."
Grant Arnold tied the game later in the period for the first goal of his career in his 23rd game.
"It was awesome to get the first goal," Arnold said. "I've had quite a few chances this year and for whatever reason they haven't gone in."
Wednesday was just the second home game this month for the Mallards, but that hadn't been an issue, with an 11-5-0 road record this year. It's been at the iWireless Center where the team has struggled so far, going 4-4-2 and not grabbing a win since Nov. 25.
"Maybe we're a little simpler on the road," Arnold said. "We play a little harder game and we're not trying to make the cute passes in front of our fans. I think we get a little comfortable at home and that's not acceptable ... there's no bonus points for a toe drag on the road."
The Mallards hope the upcoming holiday break can help them find some answers to their home issues, but they'll clearly need to make some adjustments before then with the Tulsa Oilers coming in Friday night.
"I don't think it is just a quick fix," Arnold said. "I think it's a mindset thing as a team. We know how to play to win but we have trouble doing it consistently. Honestly, it's not a quick fix at all and it's going to take time."