It took a few minutes for the Quad-City Mallards to knock the rust off.

Toledo took advantage.

The Walleye scored two goals in the first two minutes, 24 seconds of the game, then hung on for a 3-2 win Friday night in the ECHL season opener.

"The first couple minutes were pretty sloppy," Sam Warning said. "If you take that away you have a different game. I thought for the most part all the guys in the room worked pretty hard tonight."

It was the first game at the newly renamed TaxSlayer Center, but the name change didn't bring about any extra good fortune as the Mallards are now 0-9-1 in their last 10 home openers, their last win at home coming in 2005.

A little bit of rust wasn't totally surprising as the Mallards didn't have an exhibition game while Toledo played Kalamazoo in a tune-up game last week. The Mallards were already facing a tough challenge as Toledo won the Brabham Cup last year as regular season champions and certainly looked the part early, scoring on its first two shots.

But the Mallards showed the kind of fight they had late last season and responded as Warning notched the team's first goal of the season, burying a feed from Justin Kovacs to cut the lead to 2-1 heading into the first intermission.

Tristan King added his first goal, burying a feed from Josh MacDonald at 11:42 in the second period to tie the game.

"A lot of correctable things, but I wanted them to work hard and compete and they did that. They were down 2-0 and battled back, never quit, it was awesome," head coach Phil Axtell said. "For a first game, I thought it was good. The effort was there; now we need to do some correcting, some teaching, some learning and build off the positives we had."

A.J Jenks gave the Walleye the lead back with a goal at 15:02, and things got a little heated soon after. Connor Crisp took out Mallards goaltender C.J. Motte behind the net, but no penalty was called and instead Warning was given a 10-minute misconduct.

"I thought it was going to be a call, that's why I was upset. Any time you put any of these guys in jeopardy to get hurt, it's scary to see, but it's out of my control," Warning said. "I've got to stay more disciplined, can't really talk to the refs in this league. Being a third-year guy here, can't set that example for the other guys."

There were some other instances that drew the ire of the fans from the TaxSlayer Center, but for the most part the Mallards felt the game was fairly officiated.

"I didn't really think the refs were a factor," Axtell said. "They missed a couple on them, they missed a couple on us. I thought it was a fairly called game. We just have to be better as a whole."

Motte looked like he was already getting into midseason form with 30 saves in net, and Pat Nagle made 20 in his first start for the Walleye after coming over from Fort Wayne.

The Mallards took the ice without a captain after the release of Chris Francis but had three assistants in Jamie Tardif, Alexander Kuqali and Garrett Klotz.

Despite the loss, the Mallards did plenty of good things. They held the Walleye scoreless on the power play after Toledo had the best unit in the league last year and also showed plenty of signs of early chemistry developing between the lines and defensive pairings.

They'll try to build on those things and correct some of their mistakes today when they host the Tulsa Oilers.

"Puck management, not throwing the puck away," defenseman Chris Leibinger said. "Being on the same page, communication. It's the first game so some guys are thinking one thing, other guys are doing another but once we all get on the same page and start gelling, I think with the guys in the room, we can have a really great season."


Sports reporter for the Quad-City Times