Phil Axtell has liked how his goaltenders have played in the last month.
But Tuesday, the Quad-City Mallards head coach got some very welcome news.
C.J. Motte, who earned all-star honors with the team last season, was released from his professional tryout agreement with the AHL's Chicago Wolves and returned to the team after spending the last month with the Wolves.
"Little unexpected but it's going to be nice to have him back," Axtell said.
Motte's return comes after the Wolves received goaltender Michael Leighton on loan from the NHL's Arizona Coyotes. Leighton joins Kasimir Kaskisuo as the Wolves goaltenders while Maxime Lagace and Oscar Dansk remain up with the Vegas Golden Knights.
Axtell didn't indicate when Motte would play next for the 6-8-0 Mallards, who take on the Mountain Division-leading Wichita Thunder (11-2-1) Friday and Saturday, then face Kansas City on Sunday.
While with Chicago, Motte went 1-1-1 with a 2.30 goals against average and a .922 save percentage. He played in the Wolves' 4-3 shootout loss to the Rockford IceHogs on Sunday.
This year with the Mallards, Motte was 0-2-0 with a 3.53 goals against average and a .907 save percentage. He went 20-11-2 with a 2.68 goals against average and a .917 save percentage last season with Quad-City.
Motte's return crowds up the Mallards' goaltending situation. Rookie Ivan Kulbakov made 11 straight starts, going 6-5-0 with a 3.32 goals against average and a .912 save percentage while making a league-leading 382 saves. Branden Komm made his first start with the team on Sunday, a 2-0 loss to Kansas City in which he made 26 saves.
"Our goalies have been playing great without him here," Axtell said. "It's great to have him back but it's a double-edged sword. You wish he could stay up and keep playing but glad to have him back, obviously."
Axtell said he planned to keep all three goaltenders for the time being, placing Komm on reserve.
"I like Kommer, I like (Kulbakov), obviously," Axtell said. "I think Motter just wants to play so I don't think it's going to hurt. He's got a great mentality, he's going to give his best regardless of where he is."