FAYETTEVILLE, NC – With their backs against the wall the past two games, the Quad City Storm played some of their best hockey.
After extending their opening series of the SPHL playoffs Friday night, the Storm won their first playoff series in franchise history – in their first playoff appearance – beating the Fayetteville Marksmen 4-2 Saturday to win the series two games to one.
“This is tremendous – I’d be a liar if I told you otherwise – but the boys are excited,” head coach Dave Pszenyzcny said. “I thought they battled really well in the third period, and shutting down a high-octane offense like that and not giving them much was a pleasure to watch.”
The Storm awaits their second-round opponent as top-seeded Knoxville heads to a Game 3 against Roanoke on Sunday.
It’s the first playoff series win for Quad City hockey since the Quad City Mallards reached the Central Hockey League championship semifinals in 2014.
“It’s been a roller coaster since the organization started,” Pszenyczny said. “Every year we’re getting progressively better and this year it might be all coming together. We’ve just got to make sure we’re prepared, and I’m just super excited to go back to Quad City and see our fans. ”
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Ben Duperreault was the star Saturday, scoring the game-winning and insurance goals, both in the third period, to lift the Storm after Fayetteville overcame a two-goal deficit earlier in the game. Duperreault ended the first-round series with three goals and an assist.
“He’s just one of those guys that is always creating chances, if not for himself, then for others,” Pszenyczny said. “He loves being in Quad City and he’s obviously embracing it and taking advantage of every opportunity.”
The Storm got off to a quick start, captain Taylor Pryce scoring his first goal of the playoffs at the 8-minute, 59-second mark of the first period. Then Triston Theriot scored his first professional goal at 17:13 in the first period to give the Storm a 2-0 lead.
Bryan Moore got the Marksmen on the board late in the period, firing a shot that went off the back of the shoulder of Storm goaltender Bailey Brkin and into the net.
Brkin was strong for much of the game, fighting off a sequence in the second period in which he appeared to sustain an injury, allowing former Quad City Storm forward Nick Mangone to tie the game at the 8:37 mark.
“Not to take away from Fayetteville, but their goals tonight were an off-angle shot and then, a whistle should probably have been blown dead… it’s one of those things where you’ve got to play 60 minutes,” said Pszenyczny, who thought Brkin was suffering from some dehydration in the game. “I thought in the third period we really locked it down and we did what we had to move on.”
Brkin made 11 saves in the third period – 36 in the game – allowing the Storm to retake the lead on Duperreault’s goal at the 3:13 mark. Duperreault’s second goal came at 11:09, and the Storm closed out the game to advance in the playoffs.
“I think it gives you even more confidence that your goalie is going to be there to bail you out,” Pszenyczny said. “Case in point, their goaltender (Brent) Moran played a phenomenal series, kept them in the game and that’s all you can expect and ask from your goaltender at this point. For us, we enjoy it and we’re going to keep up with it and wait and rest up. ”