FORT WAYNE, Ind. — The Quad-City Mallards endured one of the nightmare scenarios of minor league hockey Sunday.
While on their way from the Quad-Cities to Fort Wayne after Saturday's game, the Mallards' bus suffered a flat tire, leaving the team stranded on the side of the road for three hours.
"We got a flat tire about 30 minutes past Joliet on the interstate, a blowout in the front driver's side tire," head coach Phil Axtell said. "Couldn't go anywhere, it was snowing like crazy. The tow trucks and the recovery services wouldn't come change the tire because it would expose them to the traffic."
The Mallards were forced to change buses, going from their normal sleeper bus to a regular coach bus. By the time the Mallards switched buses and arrived in Fort Wayne, it was 11:15 a.m., and they were scheduled to play the Komets in less than five hours.
Despite all that, the Mallards pulled out a win, beating the Komets 4-3 in a shootout, their first win over Fort Wayne this season.
C.J. Motte was the key, making 60 saves on the night as the Mallards were outshot 63-27 in the game. The Mallards goaltender broke the team's ECHL mark of 57 saves set earlier this season by Ivan Kulbakov and also made all three saves in the shootout. Motte made 28 saves in the second period, tied for sixth in league history for saves in a period.
"Motte just stood on his head. They outplayed us in the first and second, we were hanging on by a thread, we never gave up. It feels good to win," Axtell said. "From the get go, (Motte) had everything. He made a save in the second period on his butt, point blank, within three feet of the net and somehow he caught it out of the air and smothered it.
"It was a performance I'll never forget from the goaltender."
Jamie Tardif scored the only goal of the shootout for the Mallards, while Tristan King scored two goals, the second coming at the 17-minute, 21-second mark of the third period to tie the game.
"He was playing the way he's supposed to play," Axtell said. "(Forward Alex) Globke had a great draw there in the third and King put it in off the post right off the draw."
King scored the game's first goal with 40 seconds left in the first period. Marco Roy tied the game in the second, then the Mallards and Komets went back and forth in the third period.
Trevor Cheek's go-ahead goal was answered by Keegan Kolesar. Then, 33 seconds after Dennis Kravchenko gave the Komets the lead back, King scored his second of the game.
With all the Mallards had to go through, as well as the absence of forwards Triston Grant and Ryan McGrath from the lineup, Axtell recognizes how big this win was for the team.
"I think it was huge," he said. "It's awesome. We've got to keep taking steps forward."