It was a memorable night for the Rum River Mallards (26-17-1-0) who closed out their regular season in style defeating the host Rochester Vipers 8-2 on Friday night. Leading scorer Akhmed Malsagov netted another hat trick to finish with 34 goals and 74 points while goaltender Jason Cooke stopped 29 of 31 shots to win his 11th of the season.
First period goals by Jace Wilkinson, Derek Becklin and Vladimir Fadeev had Rum River leading the Vipers 3-2 at intermission. Cooke then shut the door in net holding Rochester scoreless the final 44 minutes of the game.
Malsagov scored twice in the second before finishing off the hat trick at 17:44 of the third. The 19-year old native of Russia improved his point total from the previous season when he scored eight goals and 26 points.
Former Iowa Wild AAA forward CJ Hoyt scored his 26th of the season in the second period, besting his rookie total of 11.
— Rum River Mallards (@RRMallards) February 22, 2020
A mid-season coaching change and holiday break proved to be a tough stretch for the Mallards who went 5-11 through January after Triston Jensen took over as bench boss. Now the team have become comfortable with the systems and are enjoying success on the ice.
“Just like this season we had to battle through some adversity to get going, but once we did we played a dominant style of hockey.,” said Jensen after the win in Rochester. “That’s what is so special about this group. There is an ability to be the best team in the country on any given night. Now it’s time to back it up as we head into playoffs.”
Winners of six of their last seven games, Rum River presently sit in fourth place of the USPHL Midwest-West with 53 points, one point ahead of the Minnesota Blue Ox who have two games remaining. With the regular season wrapping up on Monday playoff positions will become clear. For now the Mallards wait and see who their first round opponent will be.