Nothing can ever really erase the pain of getting swept, but at least the Quad-City Mallards are showing this year they are a different team.
The Mallards' 3-2 win over Missouri doesn't have a huge impact at this point of the season, but it's big for the mentality of the players in that locker room. Yes, it's a new year and yes, these are new teams, but for the players who were swept by Missouri last year, winning the first two games is a huge mental hurdle they've overcome.
Now, this Missouri team is not even close to the caliber it was last year, at least not at this point in the season, but the fact remains the Mallards have never fared well with the Mavericks, not even two years ago when Missouri was one of the worst teams in the division. Getting these two wins is big for guys like Mike Monfredo, Brady Brassart and Sam Warning, who know that if they were to run into Missouri in the postseason, they have the capability to win.
Falling behind to Missouri the last few years, and this game probably ends with a big Missouri win.
Getting the win instead is a big boost, especially considering these two teams play eight more times, the most of any remaining opponent for the Mallards. Even if Missouri doesn't make the postseason, they will have a say on whether or not the Mallards do, so getting these wins are crucial down the stretch.
Here are a few other things that stood out.
You can't draw up a worse start to the game than the one the Mallards endured. Brady Brassart takes a penalty 29 seconds into the game and Missouri scores on a deflection eight seconds later.
Credit to the Mallards for battling back, but this is becoming a concerning trend recently. The Mallards have given up the game's first goal nine of their last 10 games, but have won seven of those games.
It speaks a lot to the character in the locker room to be able to get over the early adversity time and time again, but falling behind is going to catch up the team eventually.
Falling behind early has to stop, because sooner or later the Mallards will dig themselves too big a hole to climb out of.
Vay making strides
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It hasn't always been pretty, but Adam Vay is on a four-game winning streak, and is improving in net. He gave up the first goal, but battled back to keep Missouri from adding on.
The second period goal was the right play, but the wrong result for Vay. He made the right play to kick the puck out to the side, but his angle wasn't correct, and instead of the puck going to the side boards or the corner, it went right to Fox for an easy goal. His positioning at times still has to improve, but he's starting to make good decisions and the right plays, even if it doesn't always end with the right result.
Vay has benefited from some tight defense at time, and only faced 22 shots tonight, but is looking stronger with each game he plays. If he can continue to develop, the Mallards could have a pretty good goaltending tandem down the stretch.
Kevin Gibson's pass to Brady Brassart to set up the breakaway goal is going to get overlooked, and it shouldn't because it was a thing of beauty.
However, Sam Warning's pass to Alex Petan for the game-winner was unreal. Warning somehow had the awareness to not try for a shot in the crease and instead deliver a blind, through the legs, across the crease pass to Petan for an easy backdoor goal.
These two plays showcase the talent that is on this team, and we've seen other high quality passes that just miss throughout the season. When this team plays to the systems and combines that with their talent, they're pretty good. It's just about finding that consistency, which could be the final piece to what is looking like a pretty good puzzle.