The Quad-City Storm found themselves in familiar territory Saturday night.
Down two goals for the second straight night, the Storm once again showed no quit, scoring three goals in the final 10 minutes to beat the Evansville Thunderbolts 5-4 at the TaxSlayer Center.
“At this point, we were playing for pride,” forward Dalton Mills said. “We want to battle every night, no matter what, playoffs or not so we’re happy with the result.”
Tyler Minx scored the game-winner, a dump in from the neutral zone bouncing past Evansville goaltender Alex Murray at the 19-minute, 36-second mark of the third period.
"I made a move and figured, I don't have a lane here, got to dump it on net and I got a lucky bounce," Minx said. "Wow. So surprised. It was a good way to end on a high note there, especially battling back the last two nights."
The Storm wrap up their inaugural season in the Southern Professional Hockey League at 18-33-5. They finish ninth in the league, 11 points ahead of Evansville.
Though both teams missed the playoffs, they ended the game with a handshake line, typical for teams at the end of a postseason series. Afterward, the Storm gathered at center ice to salute their fans for the final time this season.
“It’s been a blast,” Mills said. “Throughout the year, we’ve had a lot of new faces but everyone’s family here so you can see we’re having a little fun at the end of the game.”
The Thunderbolts took control of the game on a four-minute power play after Storm defenseman Kristaps Nimanis was given a double minor for high-sticking in the second period.
"He has to take that one because it was a 3-on-2 rebound and it's desperation," head coach Dave Pszenyczny said. "If he doesn't do that, the kid probably scores. ... I let him know but at the end of the day, I had other guys on the back end that were (screwing) up."
Frank Schumacher and Colin Clapton both scored on the extended power play, putting the Storm in a hole.
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Once again, the Storm found a way to overcome it.
Mills scored his 10th goal of the season at the 12:06 mark in the third period to cut the lead to 4-3. He finished with a goal and three assists on the night.
Shayne Morrissey had a chance to ice the game but his shot hit the post, then Minx found Shane Bennett wide open at the Evansville blue line for a breakaway goal at 16:09 to tie the game.
"I knew we were a little bit tired so the guys might have been looking for a change but the guy pressuring me caught me a little quicker than I expected," Minx said. "They hit the post on the shot and it came right back to me when I popped up. I know Benny likes to stretch the ice and he's a great goal-scorer. I saw him and got the puck flat and tried to dish it to him as quick as possible and watch him do his thing."
After getting blitzed for the first nine minutes of the game, the Storm grabbed the lead at 9:05 in the first period. A shot from John Scully rebounded to Beaudry in the slot and he buried the puck past Murray for his 11th goal of the season, seventh with the Storm.
The Thunderbolts quickly answered with two goals in just over two minutes. Chase Nieuwendyk forced a neutral zone turnover and buried a breakaway past Storm goaltender Peter Di Salvo at 11:31, then Di Salvo kicked a Brandon Tucker rebound right to Ben Campbell, who buried into a wide open net at 13:33.
It was Campbell’s first professional goal after finishing up a career at Division III Nichols College.
Phil Bronner tied the game with 30 seconds left in the period, deflecting a shot from Mills past Murray for a power-play goal and Bronner’s fifth of the year.
Di Salvo made 39 saves for his 13th win of the season while Murray made 31 saves for the Thunderbolts.
"Not how you'd want to script the last weekend of the season, but we came back," Pszenyczny said. "To me, it's mentally frustrating because if we had just decided to come out and play and play and play and maybe hit the net on some of our shots, we wouldn't have to wait until the final 27 seconds to finish a game.
"But kudos to them for finding a way to finish both nights."