Parker Milner was excited to return to Moline and face his former Quad City Mallards team tonight in Game 3 of the Kelly Cup Playoffs.
The Mavericks won the first two games of the Western Conference quarterfinal series at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena, with Milner claiming a 2-1 victory in Game 2. The scene shifts to iWireless Center in Moline, Ill., starting with today’s 6:30 p.m. game and Friday’s 7:05 p.m. contest. Game 5 (if necessary) will be at 7:05 p.m. Saturday in Moline.
Milner, though, will not make the return trip to face his former teammates as the Mavericks goaltender was called up Tuesday to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the team’s American Hockey League affiliate in Bridgeport, Conn.
“Yeah, those things happen,” Mavericks coach Richard Matvichuk said late Tuesday after he secured a backup goalie in Tyler Parks, a 6-foot-6 native of St. Louis who played at Adriane College in Adrian, Mich. “We all know what Robo (ECHL Goaltender of the Year Josh Robinson) can do in the net. He was amazing in that (6-3) win where they threw everything at him but the kitchen sink in Game 1 and now, he’s going to be the guy we’re counting on in the net at Quad City.
“You know he can handle it, and we’re happy for Parker to get the chance to go up to Bridgeport and make a difference for them in the playoffs. Like I’ve told you before, with Robo and Parker, we had two No. 1 goaltenders. Now, we’re going to have to rely on Josh and see what happens with Parker at Bridgeport.”
The Mavericks finished the regular season with 109 points – tops in the ECHL – and that secured home ice throughout the playoffs.
“Winning the first two games at home was so big – I can’t even tell you how big it was,” veteran forward Andrew Courtney said. “We have home ice, we win our first two games, and now we go into Game 3 at their place and if we win it, we’re really looking good. The next three games are on the road, and we plan on finishing it up there. But if something should happen, Game 6 and Game 7 are at home, in front of our fans. That’s where you want to play the deciding games of a playoff series.”
Matvichuk calls tonight’s game the biggest of the first-round series.
“We can really make a statement with a win Wednesday,” the coach said. “We expect to see the same team we saw in Game 1 – the team that came out with a lot of energy, that had 21 shots (on goal in the first period) and that did everything they could to take away the home ice advantage. We won Game 2 with Milner in the net, another close, tight game (the first game featured two, late empty-net goals by the Mavericks). If we win Game 3, we’re looking good. If we don’t, we let them right back in, we lead just 2-1 and we’re battling to keep the momentum we gained at home over the weekend.”