PRESCOTT VALLEY - In a heated battle for the Central Hockey League's eighth and final playoff spot, the Arizona Sundogs took Round Two from the Quad City (Ill.) Mallards Saturday at Tim's Toyota Center.
A night after being shut out by the ninth-place Mallards, the eighth-place Sundogs regained some distance between themselves and the Ducks, posting a 3-2 victory in an overtime shootout.
In the process, the hosts split a two-game series in front of 2,622 fans and grabbed a three-point lead for the No. 8 seed.
"We knew how important this game was - they were only two points behind us in the standings coming into tonight," Sundogs forward Derek LeBlanc said. "We want to keep ourselves in that eighth playoff spot there and, hopefully, move up."
Arizona rallied from a 2-1 deficit in the third period, tying the game on captain Jason Morgan's goal with 5:49 left in regulation.
After a scoreless 5-minute OT period, the Sundogs won the shootout, 2-1. Jake Hauswirth and LeBlanc handed Arizona a 2-0 lead. Quad City's Anthony Perdicaro scored immediately after LeBlanc, but the Sundogs held on as goalie David Brown denied the Mallards' last two shooters.
"Every night it's a battle," Hauswirth said. "We've got to come in with that attitude that we're battling for that playoff spot. Tonight we stuck to our system and stayed together as a team on the bench. They got that lead and we found a way to battle back and come out with two points."
Brown stopped 34-of-36 shots to earn the win. He turned away 4-of-5 in the shootout.
"I just wanted to stick to my game plan and battle hard every shot," Brown said. "It was real nice for the boys to get the lead for me in the shootout, which makes things a little bit easier."
On Saturday, the Sundogs were tied with the Mallards at 1-1 heading into the third period. With 7 minutes and 42 seconds remaining in regulation, Quad City's Mike Hellyer scored the go-ahead goal on a deflection in front of the net.
But just when it looked as though all was lost for Arizona, Morgan knotted it at 2-2 on a pretty feed from LeBlanc with 5:49 to go to send the game into OT.
Hauswirth, who returned to the lineup Friday after a month on injured reserve with a head injury, came up big.
After a scoreless first period, the Sundogs claimed a 1-0 lead 2:32 into the second frame on Hauswirth's power-play goal.
With the victory, the Sundogs' record improved to 19-20-4 overall (42 points). Quad City dipped to 17-18-5 (39 points).
This was a critical series for the Sundogs, who snapped a two-game losing streak.
"We just didn't play very well last night (in a 5-0 loss), and what a difference 24 hours makes," Arizona coach David Lohrei said. "At the end of the day I thought the guys were fantastic tonight with their effort, their camaraderie and, certainly, the outcome."
There are now 23 games left for Arizona in the 2012-13 season, including 11 at home and 12 on the road. Half of those contests will come against the current top-three teams in the CHL. The Sundogs will meet the Mallards only one more time Feb. 16 in Moline, Ill.