BLOOMINGTON — Attempting to rebound from a miserable performance the prior evening, the Bloomington Blaze spent the first period of Sunday afternoon’s Central Hockey League game against Quad City serving up shots as fast and furious as a Fort Lauderdale bartender during spring break.
After launching a blistering 22 shots on goal in the opening 20 minutes, efficiency took precedence over enthusiasm in the final two stanzas as the Blaze routed the Mallards 7-2 before a matinee audience of 2,098 at U.S. Cellular Coliseum.
“We knew we had to respond after getting our tails kicked last night (in a 6-1 loss to Missouri),” said Blaze coach Brian Gratz. “I thought we did just that in the first period and set a tone that we were going to be attacking all night long.”
Six different players found the back of the net for the Blaze in Sunday’s win, led by the two-goal performance of Nicklas Lindberg.
Lindberg came within an eyelash of a third tally with 4:43 remaining in the game when Quad City goalie Jimmy Spratt gloved a shot off Lindberg’s stick on a breakaway.
“I didn’t get it up high enough,” Lindberg said. “I was contemplating just to keep going with it, but I thought I could beat him. A hat (trick) would have been nice, but still a good game coming back from last night’s performance.”
By the time of Lindberg’s near-miss, the Blaze had already put the game out of reach. Three goals in a 3:18 stretch of the third period effectively slammed the door shut on the Mallards, who were still within a goal when the final frame began.
Bloomington outshot Quad City 47-33 for the game and got on the scoreboard first when a wrist shot from the left circle by Sebastian Trudeau got past Spratt with 2:42 remaining in the first period.
The Blaze had already outshot the Marlins by a 20-9 margin when Trudeau scored.
“We didn’t get rewarded as much as much as we would have liked to with 22 shots, but then the puck started falling for us,” Gratz said.
After Quad City tied the game with a goal 1:53 into the second period, the Blaze responded in back-to-back fashion with David Gilbert scoring his eighth goal of the season at the 4:28 mark and Lindberg scoring his first of the night just 50-seconds later to give Bloomington a 3-1 advantage.
The Mallards answered when Brett Robinson found himself alone with the puck in the Bloomington zone with 8:09 remaining in the period and flipped it past Blaze goalie Gerry Festa to pull Quad City to within 3-2.
“Our defensemen were falling asleep a little bit,” Gratz said. “We were too concerned with getting up into the play instead of making sure that nobody was behind us.”
No one got behind them the rest of the way and a four-goal outburst by the Blaze in the final frame sealed the win.
Rookie Jared Walker was credited with his first professional goal to start the rally 1:35 into the third period. However, he believes the decision to give him the goal may be overturned.
“(Tyler) Gron was driving wide and I was driving to the net and defenseman locked me up,” Walker said of a pass from Gron. “I think it either hit the defenseman or the side of the goalie and it went into the net. It would feel good (to get the first professional goal), but at the same time it would be nice to get a goal that I earned. I know they’re going to switch it.”
After Lindberg scored his second goal of the night under a minute later, Gron scored himself just 4:53 into the period.
An unassisted goal by defenseman Jesse Dudas closed out the scoring at the 10:28 mark.
Bloomington improved to 10-5-1 with the win which closed out a stretch of four games in five nights. After a day off today, the Blaze will leave for Denver on Tuesday for a game on Wednesday before traveling to Rapid City next weekend.
Mavericks 6, Blaze 1: Nick Niedert surrendered five goals on 20 shots in his first start for the Blaze and six different Mavericks scored in Missouri’s 6-1 victory Saturday night at U.S. Cellular Coliseum.
Festa made 20 saves in relief and Gron prevented a shutout with a third-period rebound goal for Bloomington.
Mavericks goalie Mathieu Corbeil stopped 30 Blaze chances for the win. Sebastien Thinel, Evan Vossen, Andrew Courtney, Josh Turnbull, John-Scott Dickson and Jamie VanderVeeken had Missouri’s goals.