All things considered, Saturday's 4-3 win over Fort Wayne is the biggest win of the season for the Quad-City Mallards.
Here are the biggest things to take away from the game.
Adam Vay's arrival
Maybe getting some national recognition, some added cheers in the crowd due to his knockout from earlier this week boosted his confidence. Maybe he's just gotten over the hurdle of playing professional hockey. I don't know what the reason was, but Adam Vay played his best game of the season tonight.
Vay was impressive all night, but it wasn't just by making big saves, but fundamentally, he looked like a different goaltender. His rebound control was impeccable -- he either smothered pucks, or kicked them out to the proper places, and there were no second chances for the Komets all night. That's something we haven't seen from Vay this season, and if he's taken the next step in that part of his game, he could become a very strong goaltender in the second half.
I also thought Vay's lateral movement was the best I've seen it, and his glove was superb. The best example came at the game's most crucial part, when Fort Wayne had a 6-on-4 power play, and a shot from down low that I thought for sure was going in. Vay flashed his glove, and kept the game tied.
If the way Vay played tonight is the way he played this summer, it's not surprising Minnesota took a chance on him. If he plays like that the rest of the season, the Mallards will have two outstanding goaltenders. It's going to be interesting to see if Vay can carry this momentum forward, but his performance tonight gives a glimmer of possibility moving forward.
When you're on a losing streak like the Mallards were on, you're not going to get bounces. Pucks just don't go in the net, go off the stick wrong, and things don't fall into place. Sometimes, to break a losing streak, you have to get a little lucky.
The Mallards got a little lucky in the second period to tie the game.
I'm not 100 percent sure what happened, but I do think P.J. Musico's willingness to handle the puck had something to do with it. Instead of covering the puck, Musico attempted to play it, and shot it off Milan and back into the net. Chris Francis was credited for the goal, but it was definitely an own goal.
It was a stroke of luck, but one the Mallards needed, and to their credit, they capitalized. At that point, it just felt like the Mallards' night, and they took advantage of it. A lot of times, those bounces only go your way if you work hard, and Francis drove the net hard and caused the havoc. Now, the Mallards need to keep playing as hard as they did tonight, because if they do, those bounces will more often than not go their way.
Down 2-0 early, the Mallards looked destined for another loss. But during the skid, the team kept saying how they weren't doubting themselves, how they were sticking together in the locker room, and how if they kept working hard, they'd turn it around.
To their credit, they did just that, scoring the next three goals, and then answering what could have been a devastating equalizer from Garrett Thompson.
To their credit, the Mallards didn't quit on themselves over the past two weeks, kept working hard, and it finally paid off. This could be the turning point in the season, the game that we look back on as the moment the Mallards broke out of their funk and became a truly dangerous team. They've survived the lowest point in franchise history, now they need to build on this. One win is great, and the team deserves to celebrate, but they now have to get back at it and work just as hard, play just as smart, and turn this one win into six, seven, and more.
One more note, though the Mallards are still injured, Parks and LaPorte returning were huge for the Mallards. It gave the team some depth, some energy, and, frankly, some skill the team was missing. As long as the team doesn't suffer any more injuries, they should be able to start stringing wins together, and start getting more and more healthy.