For the first time since 2017, playoff hockey is back in the Quad-Cities.
Quad City Storm get their first playoff appearance in franchise history when they host Fayetteville Marksmen Wednesday at the TaxSlayer Center, the first game in a best of three SPHL playoff series.
There was no hockey in the Quad-Cities in 2020-21 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which also ended the 2019-20 season prematurely as the Storm battled for a spot after the season.
Storm struggled in their opening season and missed the playoffs in 2019, and the year before that put Quad City Mallards together after their worst season in franchise history.
Despite all that, the thinking in the locker room has not changed much compared to the regular season.
“You do not want to change too much because I feel it would send a different message to our players,” said head coach Dave Pszenyczny. “It should not change, it’s just that we’re playing against one opponent. We’re just really focused on ourselves right now.”
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The 4-vs.-5 series seems to be good.
The two teams met only once this year for a three-match series at the end of February. The Storm, who finished 32-15-9, won the first game 3-1, then Fayetteville, who finished 40-14-2, won the last two games 3-2 and 7-3, respectively.
Nine different shooters scored in the series, led by Tanner Froese and Zach Remers, who both scored two goals.
Shane Bennett had three goals for Storm in the series.
Marksmen are balanced – 10 players have scored at least 10 goals for the season, led by Taylor Best, who has 22. Storm has only five players on the playoff list, who scored more than 10, but scored only six fewer goals than Sagittarius this season.
“They are a really complex team, they have a lot of skills, guys who can score at will, so we have to tune in to it and not give them time and space,” Pszenyczny said. “When we see some of the goals they get here, it’s not really a system, it’s a breakdown from the opponent, so we know we have to play a clean game and not give them anything.”
Marksmen also has two strong options in net.
Jason Pawloski and Brent Moran have split times, with Pawloski averaging 2.14 goals and a save percentage of 0.924 in 22 games, one more than Moran, a former NHL draft pick who averaged 2.36 goals and a save percentage. at 0.930 this season.
The storm has seen a lot of revenue in net, but is entering the off-season with the combination of Bailey Brkin and Kevin Resop.
Brkin has played the most games with 17 appearances and has 2.12 goals against the average and a save percentage of 0.922, even though he spent much of the season on various ECHL calls.
It allowed Kevin Resop to see significant playing time and he took up the challenge with 2.60 goals against the average and a save percentage of 0.909 along with two shutouts.
“It’s a battle-time decision that we will have to make,” Pszenyzcny said. “Honestly, we could take one of them … We know that on Wednesday.”
Although the playoffs are back, it’s been a while since Quad-City hockey experienced a sustained run. A Quad-City hockey team has not won a playoff series since 2014, when Mallards reached Game 7 of the Central Hockey League semifinals. It ended a stretch of 11 years without a series win.
With this playoff format as the best of three, does that put more pressure on Storm to win Game 1 at home?
“Everything has to be fast,” Pszenyczny said. “I like that we’re home to start. We’ve not been home in a while … I think our audience is going to be a huge push for us, I think there “There’s a lot of excitement around the cities. Now, and we just have to eat.”