The Quad-City Mallards showed some early season resiliency Saturday night.
The Mallards were trailing the Tulsa Oilers midway thorough the third period, thanks in part to a disallowed goal and a tough goal allowed, but the team rallied back with two goals in 23 seconds and pulled out a 5-4 win over the Oilers.
The win is the Mallards' first of the season and first at the TaxSlayer Center since it was renamed.
"I think we've done a good job fighting back," forward Tristan King said. "That's always good to see in your team."
King assisted on the game-winning goal, setting up Josh MacDonald to give the Mallards the lead at the 12-minute, 56-second mark of the third period. MacDonald's goal came on the heels of Matt Pohlkamp's first of the season to tie it.
Before that, the Mallards found themselves in trouble after a tough sequence in the period.
Jamie Tardif looked to score but the official blew the play dead after losing sight of the puck, though video replay showed goaltender Jake Hildebrand never had control of the puck.
Alexandre Ranger scored soon after, throwing a puck on net that bounced through the legs of Mallards goaltender Ivan Kulbakov, making his first professional start.
Kulbakov made 27 saves in the game, plenty of ones big enough to make up for the gaffe in the third period.
"He made some huge saves for us," head coach Phil Axtell said. "There are a couple he might want to have back, but he's 21 years old. Last year he was playing against amateurs. He's been through the training camps, the NHL camp, the American League camp and now he's down here. Things are a little bit different down here so I thought he did well for his first pro game."
It's only the second game of the season, but the Mallards are already showing good things on the ice. Teammates were sticking up for each other, evidenced by Kyle Follmer fighting Adam Pleskach after Pleskach had a dangerous hit on Alex Globke.
Players were also blocking shots — perhaps none bigger than Jacob Graves' with the Mallards killing off a 6-on-4 in the final seconds.
"I think that shows we're serious about our defensive game," King said. "The guys that are blocking shots like Gravesy there at the end, that one is extremely painful to take right in the ribs. ... There are a number of guys that are blocking shots and that's huge. That gives our goalie a chance. He played awesome tonight, and it shows the character and heart of our team."
The Mallards gave up the first goal of the night, allowing a shorthanded breakaway to Conner Bleackley, but responded with a goal from Keegan Kolesar, the first of his career.
Kolesar is down from the Chicago Wolves, possibly just for the week, but played hard throughout the game. His hustle set up the Mallards' third goal of the night, beating out an icing call then taking the puck off goalie Jake Hildebrand's stick and finding Justin Kovacs in the slot to put the Mallards up 3-2.
Kolesar finished the night with a goal, two assists and at least one blocked shot.
"That's what good players do," Axtell said. "Some guys could sulk and pout that they got sent down, but it just shows the character of Mr. Kolesar."