Well, that was a fun way to go into the holiday break.
It's been a long month. The Quad-City Mallards have had seven road games, and two of the three home games have ended with losses, quiet locker rooms, and disappointed players.
Friday night was a little something different.
Ninety penalty minutes, four fights (really five, but Sam Warning apparently doesn't get whistled for fighting) and a 4-3 Mallards win over Tulsa Oilers was certainly entertaining for the fans at the iWireless Center.
But underneath all the fireworks was a pretty dang good hockey game from the Mallards.
It was the first home win since Nov. 25, and should be a good way for the players to go into their brief respite before the grind of the second half of the season begins.
Here are a few things that stood out from the game.
Arnold provides spark
Grant Arnold might be the heart of the Quad-City Mallards. He doesn't score very often — his first career goal came on Wednesday — but he provides everything else to this team. His first-period fight epitomized that. It had already been a physical game, and Tulsa did score after the fight to take a 2-0 lead, but Arnold's fight, coupled with Chris Francis' late goal, really changed the game.
The Mallards came out in the second period and took it to Tulsa. They were fast, physical and hounded the Oilers in their own zone most of the period. I don't think that happens if not for Arnold. Watching him early on this season, he always seems to be working hard, doing the little things to help the team be successful.
Arnold is not going to be a guy that has gaudy stats at the end of the season, and the casual fan may look at him and wonder what he provided to the team this season, but if the Mallards make the playoffs, I believe they'll have Arnold to thank.
Vay still growing
He's coming along, but Adam Vay is still growing as a goaltender in his first year as a professional. He didn't face many shots, just 19, but still had some moments where he looked tentative in net.
The first goal against wasn't his fault, the Mallards left a guy alone in the high slot and Vay had to try and make a big save, and the second goal came because of a screen. But watching him in net, he still looks like he's learning the proper positioning, which are things that will come in time.
Vay has been working hard with Iowa goalie coach Frederic Chabot, and he has shown improvement. There's still things he needs to work on, but he's starting to show some promising signs for the second half of the season.
Keeping it simple
Watching some of the Mallards' road games, I was struck by how simple they kept plays, and how good they looked while doing it. For most of the season at home, they weren't doing those same things.
Friday night, they did. Now, it took until the second period, but the Mallards absolutely outworked, outhustled, and outphysicalled the Oilers, and took advantage on the scoreboard. They didn't try to make fancy drop passes that got them in trouble in Wednesday's loss, but worked hard, hustled to the net, and good things happened.
If the Mallards can learn to do that in the majority of their games, they can be a team that makes some noise in the spring.