The Missouri Mavericks capped off a successful weekend in Anchorage, beating the Alaska Aces by a score of 3-1 to take the rubber match of the three game series. Josh Robinson, fresh off his shutout in Saturday’s victory, was once again stellar between the pipes, stopping 28 of the 29 Alaska shots. Mix in goals from the red hot Josh Holmstrom, captain Trevor Ludwig, and his brother CJ, and the Mavericks make the long trek home with four points under their belts.
There was an interesting dynamic to this past weekend, and I’m glad I was there to witness it. Friday night was a rough game. An early mistake gave Alaska an early lead, and seemed to take the wind out of the Mavericks’ sails, to which they never really recovered. That game felt a lot like so many games that we witnessed last season. The Mavs had the majority of puck possession time, put up an incredible amount of shots (40), but never really had many quality scoring chances. Alaska forced them into taking many bad angle or forced shots that were handled easily by Aces goalie Troy Redmann. Not to take anything away from his performance, but Redmann was only truly challenged a handful of times out of those 40 shots that he faced.
Saturday night was a completely different story. The Mavs came out like someone had lit a fire under their hind quarters, and took it to the Aces from start to finish. I talked with Robinson after the game and he said “if we play defense like that all year, we’re going to win a lot of games.” He’s absolutely right. The overall team defense put on display was impressive, and you have to think that is something Richard Matvichuk has been pining for since taking over behind the bench. Every player was as committed on the defensive side of the puck as they were in the opposite third of the rink. The team moved up and down the ice as a unit, with smothering transition play in both directions. It was giving Alaska fits, and they didn’t have an answer for it. The Mavs rode their stout defensive play, backed by Robinson’s impressive performance to a shutout victory on Saturday, and never took their foot off the pedal, wrapping up a successful weekend with a 3-1 victory on Sunday.
This was a big weekend for the Mavs. Not only is winning two out of three on a long road trip great, but the guys had a chance to spend some time together and continue to gel off the ice. That is a bigger deal than any of us probably realize. On the ice, it was easy to see the improvements that have been made compared to last season, besides the aforementioned team defense and transition play. The special teams units looked solid, even though the numbers would say otherwise. The power play unit really moved the puck well, and did a good job spending most of the time in the Alaska zone. They used the points well and got the defense moving laterally. Though they were only 1 for 12, it was a sign that this team will be taking advantage of power play situations. The penalty kill also looked good, clogging up passing lanes, winning loose pucks along the boards, and pinning the puck deep in the Aces’ zone to kill off extra seconds. The special teams units were laughable last season. Those days appear to be behind the Mavs.
The Mavs will prepare for Wichita this week, as they will face the Thunder at their barn on Friday night, then again Saturday in the home opener at the Silverstein Eye Centers Arena (still getting used to that). Wichita has come out strong as well, ruining Jason Christie’s debut behind the bench in Tulsa Friday night, before coming home and taking care of Quad City in a shootout on Saturday. Every game in the Central Division will be important, and with the history that these two teams have against each other, we should be in for a weekend of fireworks.
NOTE: Be sure to tune in for the maiden broadcast of The Sin Bin Pregame show, at 6pm on Saturday night before the Mavs’ home opener. Ryan Gibson (Gibby) will join me as we break down the opening weekend in Alaska, and preview the upcoming set with Wichita. If you have any questions, send them in via Twitter, Facebook, or Email and you could get them answered on the air! Download the Missouri Mavericks app through iTunes or the Google Play Store to listen.