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Mavericks: In A Rough Patch

Time to check in with the Flames’ ECHL affiliate in Kansas City! After missing the Kelly Cup playoffs in last year’s crazy shortened and re-aligned season, they’re now back at it to try again. As the regular season winds down, the chase for a playoff spot is heating up!

The Mavericks kicked off the early stretch of the year by going .500 through their opening six match ups, and they hadn’t managed to get ahead of the curve since. The New Year brought new hope, but KC’s January record only brought seven wins. With four wins and three losses including a loser point in the first couple weeks of February, things were much the same. At Valentine’s Day, KC was creeping towards a playoff spot sitting four points back of the fourth and final spot and was about to kick off an eight game home stand at Cable Dahmer Arena.

However, “five hundred” has become the dominant number yet again. A tough stretch of picking up three points out of a possible ten has left the team sub-.500 on the year. The upside here is that they’ve moved one spot up from last place in the Mountain Division, an honour now occupied by the Wichita Thunder. This leaves the team needing to leapfrog the Allen Americans if they want to track down the division’s fourth and final berth for the Kelly Cup Playoffs.

That’ll turn into a tough job as the Kelly Cup Playoffs qualify by points percentage to offset COVID postponements and cancellations, and Allen has a whopping six games in hand while Tulsa has four.

GAME BY GAME:

MAR 11- KC Mavericks 1 @ Utah Grizzlies 3 -LOSS

MAR 12- KC Mavericks 3 @ Utah Grizzlies 6 -LOSS

MAR 15- KC Mavericks 4 vs Tulsa Oilers 3 -WIN (OT)

MAR 18- KC Mavericks 4 @ Rapid City Rush -LOSS

MAR 19- KC Mavericks 2 @ Rapid City Rush 3 -LOSS (OT)

THE SQUAD:

In roster news, KC made a big trade just over a month ago that is yielding positive results. The deal was made official on February 16th, sending Bryan Lemos and future considerations to the Indy Fuel for defenseman Mike Lee. The offensively minded blueliner had 32 points in 41 games at the time of the deal, and solidifies the team’s want to be offensive from the back end, since they already have 2022 ECHL All-Star Game MVP Marcus Crawford who is clipping along at a 0.81 points per game pace as a defenseman. They’re both up to 44 points on the season now, which puts them in a tie between themselves for third overall in ECHL defenseman scoring.

Here’s a powerplay marker from the new guy versus Rapid City:

From the forwards perspective, Nick Pastujov was previously leading the team scoring race but was called up to the AHL Rochester Americans on February 22nd. Veteran Darik Angeli, who hit both 400 ECHL games played and 100 ECHL goals scored this year, now holds that spot.

He’s up to 60 points on the campaign with 24 goals and 36 assists which puts him eighth overall in the league scoring race. Just eleven days ago he was in fourth, but only managed to post one goal and one assist in that span since. The next highest scoring forward for KC is Ben Johnson with 38 points, as defenders Mike Lee and Marcus Crawford are ahead of him with their previously mentioned 44.

Here’s Angeli’s lone goal from this update, which came in the Mavericks’ lone win as the overtime winner against the Tulsa Oilers:

In the blue paint, there’s not a lot of positive takeaways with this recent run of losses. But, Calgary Flames prospect Daniil Chechelev had a stellar 48-save performance in the aforementioned Tulsa win, which was his twelfth of the campaign in 28 games played. It’s another flash of brilliance from the tendy, as Chechy also dropped a 40-save shutout against the Rapid City Rush on February 5th.

Penalty trouble continues to be a contributing factor this year, as Kansas City leads the league with a whopping 1323 PIMs on the season. That’s a full 242 penalty minutes more than the next worst offenders, the Norfolk Admirals. Mikael Robideau stands atop the pile by that exact number, with 242 penalty minutes. The team also has three skaters with 50+ on the year, and another pair poised to pass that mark soon.

UP NEXT:

After finishing up the last game of three in Rapid City, the Mavs will get a massive ten day break. They’ll resume play on the 30th, kicking off a home-and-home with the Americans that could go a long way towards defining the season and their playoff push. And, for good measure, they’ll play them in another two game set on the 6th and 8th of April in Allen. They’ll have a single game in-between those sets, as they host the last-place Thunder in the second game of a back-to-back at home.

If the squad can gain ground as they try to pass the Americans and take two points against struggling Wichita, things could start to look quite different!

Check back with Matchsticks & Gasoline to follow the Mavericks in their playoff quest!