Coming off a pair of blowout losses, the Quad-City Mallards went bowling Friday night.
They then bowled over the Indy Fuel on Saturday night, winning 5-3, snapping a two-game losing streak.
"I think everyone came together. Anytime you do a little team building it helps with the game," forward Sam Warning said. "Tonight it was fun to be a forward, our 'D' were unbelievable, Ivan played great again as usual. I think right now we're trying to find our identity, and I think once we find that we'll be playing team hockey."
Warning scored two goals on the night and now has nine on the season. He also added a fight in the second period, maybe making the crowd at the TaxSlayer Center hold their breath but something head coach Phil Axtell didn't have an issue with.
"The kid can do whatever he wants to do," he said. "The thing is we're getting chances, but he's the only one burying right now."
Warning didn't lose sight of the significance of the holiday. The Mallards were wearing special military-themed jerseys and recognized service men and women before and during the game in honor of Veteran's Day.
"The big picture was we've got to support the military," Warning said. "What those people do is unbelievable, and I'm so thankful to have, and I can't say enough about it."
Brayden Low put the Mallards on the board first, burying a feed from Matt Pohlkamp at the 8-minute, 30-second mark for his second goal in the last two games. It’s just the third time in the first 10 games the Mallards scored the first goal of the game, and the Mallards have won all three games in which they've done that.
Warning put the Mallards up 2-0 with his first goal of the game, burying a feed from Tyler Wong, playing his first game since being loaned to the team by the Chicago Wolves.
Wong showed plenty of potential with his end-to-end speed and had some other chances to produce, looking to be a strong contributor to the team while down from the AHL.
Alex Wideman put Indy on the board at 19:17 in the first period, giving Indy a shot in the arm heading into the first intermission.
Warning notched his second goal of the game just 2:22 into the second period, taking a pass from Justin Kovacs and beating Fuel goaltender Collin Delia high to put the Mallards up 3-1.
But Indy answered back with a pair of goals from Nick Bligh. Bligh’s second goal came after a clearing attempt on the penalty kill appeared to hit the linesman, keeping the puck in the Mallards’ zone, and Bligh capitalized to tie the game.
Bligh’s second goal capped a stretch during which the Fuel outshot the Mallards 15-4, but the Mallards controlled the rest of the period and retook the lead with Ryan McGrath’s first goal of the season at 14:52. Pohlkamp notched the assist as both he and Willie Raskob had two assists on the night.
The Fuel outshot the Mallards 34-29 but didn't get many quality chances as the night went on.
"I think the biggest thing is cleaning up our slot, taking away the middle as much as we can, five guys in the picture," Raskob said. "As much as we can take away those opportunities and clear out the front of the net, it takes away their top chances, and we'll give (goaltender Ivan Kulbakov) those outside shots every night."
It was a stark contrast to the previous two games, in which the Mallards were outscored 11-2 and struggled in their own zone.
"We went back, watched some video, came together and talked about it," Raskob said. "Everyone gave their two cents on what they needed to do better, and I don't think tonight was a matter of systems. it was just a matter of effort, and I think tonight we gave a better effort overall."
Tristan King gave the Mallards some insurance with his second goal of the season, finding a loose puck in front of the net and beating Delia late in the third period.
Ivan Kulbakov made 31 saves for his fifth win of the season while Delia made 25 saves for the Fuel in his fifth loss of the season.
The Mallards take on the Fuel again today at 4:05 p.m., looking to start putting together an early-season run.
"I think any time you lose back to back games and get blown out like that it's always tough," Warning said. "I think to bounce back like that shows the type of guys we have in the locker room."
Fuel sign Sakellaropoulos: The Indy Fuel signed goaltender Alex Sakellaropoulos Saturday, two days after the Mallards released him. He backed up Delia in the game.