There are few things that take the wind out of team’s sails than surrendering a shorthanded goal. It doesn’t happen a lot, but when it does, it is normally disastrous. That was the case for the Missouri Mavericks on Saturday night in Fort Wayne, a game that the Mavs eventually lost 6-4. The shorty came from Komets forward (and former Fort Worth Brahma) Shawn Szydlowski, and little did we know that one little misstep by the Mavs on the man-advantage would unfold into a historic night, right before our very eyes.
Sometimes, athletes get into “the zone” and everything that they touch turns to gold. We’ve seen Kobe Bryant score 81 points in a basketball game, Peyton Manning throw seven touchdowns in one game, and some guy named Madison Bumgarner do something that no one around these parts wants to talk about. On Saturday night in Fort Wayne, Szydlowski put together one of the most incredible nights in any hockey league, anywhere. Szydlowski would tally an incredible total of five goals, three of them coming shorthanded. Read that last sentence again, because there’s probably a good chance that I don’t type those words again in my life. A hat trick is an impressive feat, and something every hockey player dreams of at some point. If a player registered three shorthanded goals in an entire season, it would be a great contribution. Szydlowski had a hat trick simply comprised of shorties, and added a couple more goals to come within one goal of the ECHL record.
I am still in awe at what I witnessed on Saturday night. Sure, I was upset about the Mavs losing, but getting to witness something so historic gave me a little solace at the end of the night. Here’s a little secret to Mavs fans: showing appreciation for something amazing on the ice is okay, even if it is not to your team’s advantage. No one will question your fandom or allegiance for acknowledging greatness. No one will think less of you for tipping your cap, tapping your stick on the ice, and/or doing any other sports-related display of respect. In fact, showing that appreciation is a good way to announce that this disappointing season has not gotten the best of you. It shows that your respect for the game and those who battle on a nightly basis do not simply get our respect, but must earn it. What Shawn Szydlowski achieved on Saturday night earned my respect, even if it came at the expense of my personal interests.
I realize how easy it is to just say “who cares.” I really do. The fact of the matter is that we should care. We should care about performances like Szydlowski’s, as they get people outside of the realm of the ECHL talking about the league. That’s what we ultimately want, isn’t it? We want people to realize the great thing that we have at The IEC. We want people to realize that the ECHL is a league teeming with talent. We want the big wigs in the hockey world talking about the Shawn Szydlowskis, the Casey Pierro-Zabotels, and the Andrew Courtneys. We want people talking about the Missouri Mavericks, even if this time history was achieved against them, because next time, it could be Courtney scoring six goals, and maybe all of that previous talk lands him on ESPN, scoring his sixth goal with the Orange Army going nuts in the background. Yeah, it’s okay to talk about history, for or against the Mavs.