Rum River Mallards coach Triston Jensen is at his wits’ end after his team’s current losing streak extended to 11 straight with two losses to the Minnesota Mullets this past weekend.
“When you start losing like this, it feels as if the moment you fix one thing, something else pops up,” he said following his team’s 4-2 loss on Wednesday, Oct. 28, at the Isanti Ice Arena. “We’re so frustrated right now, we put ourselves in bad spots. But winning cures all.”
Rum River continues to search for that win, however, after dropping a 5-4 decision the following night in a contest played at Augsburg University.
Wednesday’s contest saw the Mallards trail 2-0 after two periods. They were outshot 34-22 in that span, and only a strong performance by Austin Bartell in goal – he finished with 44 saves in the contest – kept his team in the game.
“At the end of the day, we can only do so much as a coaching staff; the players have got to play the game. And they’re not,” Jensen said. “Right now guys are playing as if they’re better than they think they are.
“That’s the hardest part about this level: We’re here to develop guys, and the mental part of the game is the side that takes a lot of work.”
In the third period Rum River showed signs of life as Carter Robinson scored at 5:22 to make it a one-goal game. But a sloppy defensive play by the Mallards resulted in a goal and a penalty midway through the period, and Kennan Reyelts’ goal at the 14:16 mark meant little when another poor defensive effort resulted in the clinching goal for the Mullets with just 46 seconds to play.
“Their two goals came on lazy plays,” Jensen said. “You can play 18 minutes in a period, play well and score twice. If we do hold them scoreless in the third period, we force overtime and we get a point at least.
“But that’s our MO: We play one or two good periods, but the rest are bad. And the way to win hockey games is to play three good periods. You have to be rock-solid for 60 minutes.”
Thursday’s contest was a wild affair in which the two teams combined for five goals in the opening period. The Mullets scored first, but Conner Pavlowich and Dominic Bailliff scored just 24 seconds apart midway through the period to give Rum River the lead.
Late in the period the Mullets scored again, but Garrett Sawyer’s goal with just nine seconds left gave the Mallards a 3-2 advantage entering the second period.
The Mullets scored twice in a 33-second span midway through the second to take the lead for good and added an empty-net goal with just 41 seconds left in the game to ice the win.
Cambridge native Easton Parnell collected his fourth goal of the season for Rum River at the final buzzer to complete the scoring.
“We have so much talent in our [locker] room, we can turn this around,” Jensen said of the losing streak. “We are talented enough to get back to .500 and be the team we envisioned at the start of the season.”
What will take to reach that point?
“A lot of our guys are in their own heads,” Jensen said. “They have to realize that, if you play the game the right way, you’re going to be rewarded. We need to take a breath and play the game the right way, and we’ll break through.”
Rum River will play a pair of road games close to home this weekend. The Mallards will face the Minnesota Blue Ox on Friday, Nov. 6, in Coon Rapids starting at 7 p.m., then will take on the Minnesota Moose the following evening at the Fogerty Ice House, with opening faceoff set for 7:05 p.m.