The Kalamazoo Wings had three games in three nights including a home-and-home against the team directly ahead of them in the standings - the Quad City Mallards.
Friday, February 24, at Quad City
The K-Wings had dropped their last three in a row when they traveled to Moline, Illinois, to take on the Mallards. Nick Riopel got the call in net. Since coming back from Syracuse, the Quebec native is 5-1 for the K-Wings. He ran that record to 6-1 when he made 29 saves in a 4-2 victory over the Mallards on Friday night.
Kalamazoo struck twice at the end of the first period with Tanner Sorenson ending an 11-game goalless drought by beating Adam Vay on the stick side. Less than a minute later Dajon Mingo scored the first of his two goals of the night by redirecting a shot from the point by Eric Kattelus.
After Quad City cut the lead to one early in the second on a goal by Josh McDonald, Mingo scored again, taking a feed from Brian Hart and putting it past Vay’s blocker. The assist was Hart’s first since being sent down to Kalamazoo from Syracuse.
Chris Francis converted a power play goal for the Mallards to once again pull them within one, but Tyler Biggs found himself alone in front of the net when a puck caromed to him and he put it away to seal the victory.
Saturday February 25th Quad City at Kalamazoo
Kalamazoo returned to the Wings Event Center one point behind the Tulsa Oilers for the fourth and final spot in the playoffs in the Central Division. Coach Nick Bootland went with the hot hand and started Riopel in net for the second straight night. His move paid off, and Riopel won yet again, backstopping the K-Wings to a 4-1 victory over the Mallards.
Quad City came out looking to avenge the loss from the night before, scoring first on a Jack Nevins goal 8 minute into the game. Riopel stopped the other 11 shots he faced in the period to keep the K-Wings in the game long enough to get the offense going.
Kalamazoo dominated the second period, outshooting the Mallards 23-6. With all of those shots, some were bound to find the back of the net. Tyler Biggs started the scoring with his 10th goal of the season, beating Adam Vay to tie the game at one. Sean O’Rourke scored five minutes later to give the K-Wings the lead. The goal was O’Rourke’s first goal in 50 games with the K-Wings this season. Justin Taylor capped off the scoring in the middle frame tipping a shot from Erik Kattelus past Vay.
Taylor added his second of the game with an empty net goal at the end of the third to cap off the victory and put the K-Wings in the playoff picture for the first time this season. The goal was Taylor’s 26th of the season which tied his career high. Riopel made 26 saves for his 11th win of the season.
Sunday February 26th
With their third game in as many nights, Coach Bootland turned to the veteran Joel Martin in net. The all-time franchise leader in wins has had a rough February, going 0-5, but was at the top of his game on Sunday, stopping 21 shots in the 6-2 Kalamazoo win.
The K-Wings had yet another two-goal performance from one of their players as Sorenson scored twice in the second period. Kalamazoo scored three goals in the second to blow open a 2-1 game. Cameron Darcy scored his first goal as a member of the team in middle frame as well.
Tyler Biggs (his third in three games), Charlie Vasaturo and Dajon Mingo also scored in the offensive explosion. With the win, the K-Wings increased their lead over Tulsa to three points for that last spot in the playoffs.
With his two wins, 1.50GAA and .948 save percentage over the weekend, NIck Riopel was named the CCM/ECHL Goalie of the Week.
On the year he has an 11-9-1 record and a 2.80 GAA which is good for 11th in the ECHL on the season.
Cameron Darcy was reassigned to Kalamazoo from Syracuse on Thursday. Darcy, 22, joins Brian Hart as the only two members of the K-Wings that were draft picks of the Tampa Bay Lightning currently playing (Jimmy Mullin is still recovering from a knee injury).
Darcy played 34 games with the Syracuse Crunch this season, tallying 3 goals and 4 assists. He has made a difference in 3 games with the K-Wings the center has 1 goal and 2 assists.
Wednesday - at Quad City Mallards 6:35pm
Friday - Brampton Beast at Kalamazoo 7:00pm
Saturday - at Toledo Walleye 7:15pm
Sunday - Adirondack Thunder at Kalamazoo 3:00pm
Points: 49 - Justin Taylor
Goals: 26 - Justin Taylor
Wins: 15 - Joel Martin
GAA: 2.80 - Nick Riopel