MOLINE, Ill. – The Missouri Mavericks showcased again why they entered the 2016 ECHL Kelly Cup Playoffs with the best record in the regular season.
They got timely goals and great net play from Josh Robinson to claim a come-from-behind 4-2 victory over the Quad City Mallards Wednesday night at the iWireless Center to take a commanding 3-0 lead in their Western Conference quarterfinal series.
Trailing 2-1 going into the final period, Tyler Barnes knotted the score at 2-all just 47 seconds into the final period on assists from Carter Verhaeghe and Rocco Carzo.
"That was huge, getting it tied and getting back in the game," team captain Trevor Ludwig said by phone. "We all knew that winning Game 3 would be tough, and it was tough, but we found a way to get it done."
David de Kastrozza then scored a huge shorthanded goal at the 15:33 mark on an assist from Darren Nowick, and it proved to be the game-winner.
Reed Seckel gave the Mavericks some breathing room with a penalty shot goal at 17:11 to secure the win.
"Tonight is the biggest win, because it's tonight's game and it gives us a 3-0 lead," Mavericks coach Richard Matvichuk said by phone. "Now that this one is over, Friday night's game is the biggest – and it's going to be the toughest because their backs are against the wall and they're going to give us everything they have to keep this series alive."
Quad City took a 1-0 lead just 4:05 into the first period when Matt Neal scored a shorthanded goal against Robinson.
“Not the way you want to start," Ludwig said. "But there was no panic. We came back from trailing 1-0 and 2-1 and there was never any panic. We're confident, but we're certainly not overconfident.
"We know how tough winning Game 4 Friday will be. There are some things we need to clean up defensively and I'm sure we'll watch some film on Thursday. Matti is going to have us ready to go Friday."
Missouri's Bryce Aneloski then tied the game at 1-1, scoring on an assist from Verhaeghe at the 7:15 mark of the first period.
That score stood until the Mallards' Olivier Archambault scored the lone goal of the second period at the 5:38 mark for a 2-1 Quad City lead.
"Our guys knew what they had to do in the third period," Matvichuk said. "We had to take it a goal at a time. Barnes' goal was big because it tied the game.
"De Kastrozza had a huge goal. Anytime you get a shorthanded goal it's big, and it gave us a lead.
"Then, a guy like Seckel, who is so good at getting under an opponent's skin, gets the penalty shot. That was so big. Leading by two with under three minutes to go is huge.
"And Robo was Robo. You know what you're going to get from him every night."
Robinson stopped 22 of 24 shots and made sure the Mallards didn't score late as they went with a sixth attacker the last 1:23 of the game.
Mallards goalie Brody Hoffman stopped 32 of 36 shots on goal.
"We're not going to look too far ahead, we're just focused on Game 4 – every shift, every period, we have to make sure we're playing our best hockey,” Ludwig said. “That's how we won tonight and that's how we hope to keep winning."