INDEPENDENCE, MO — The Kansas City Mavericks needed the force Friday on Star Wars night at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena. In what felt like a throwback to the old Central Hockey League days, the Mavericks and the Kalamazoo Wings opened the game with a flurry of fisticuffs in the first period that accounted for enough penalties to make Santa Claus blush. Here is the main melee, just after the 10-minute mark of the first period:
As an interesting sidebar to the goalie fight, both goalies would likely have been tossed, but Kalamazoo only had an emergency backup goaltender on the bench, who was a lawyer in the KC area. Their normal backup, Michael Garteig, is in Utica. Still though, the infractions and broken play of the first, gave the Wings a 3-0 lead.
The Mavericks again got out to a strong lead in shots on goal, but couldn’t create enough traffic in front to beat Joel Martin. But, oh how that changed in the second. After a mundane first fourteen minutes of the period, the Mavericks exploded for three goals in less than two minutes as Hunter Smith buried two tallies and Jared VanWormer picked up another to tie it at three apiece. The Mavericks have needed Smith to use his size in front of the net, and it began to fall into place for the 6-7, 230-pound forward. The 2nd round pick of the Calgary Flames has incredible size and a nasty wrister. If he can continue to use his tools, the Mavericks offense is entirely different.
The final five minutes of the second period was the best the Mavericks have looked on home ice so far this season, and the home crowd let them know it. It was as abrupt of a momentum change as you’ll see in sports. The Wings went from a comfortable lead to looking very heavy-legged.
The third period opened with the Mavericks in complete control of the puck for the first four minutes before a Dan Correale slashing call put the Wings on the powerplay. Mason McDonald continued to look calm in net, however, following a goalie fight he was involved in with Joel Martin in the first period. Mavericks coach, John-Scott Dickson has talked all year about his team keeping their feet moving, and after the sluggish first frame, the Mavericks did just that.
The Mavericks returned to the powerplay with fourteen minutes to go in the game and unlike the last two games, decided to put shot after shot on goal. Dickson, in an interview after Wednesday’s game, mentioned that players would either start shooting on the power play or they would no longer be playing on those units. The powerplay would prove unsuccessful, but the pressure was notable compared to the last couple of games.
The Mavericks would kill off a Greg Betzold high sticking call at the midpoint of the third period with the Wings getting some quality looks but coming up empty. The most significant change in the Mavs penalty kill units since the first few weeks of the season is the number of players willing to give up the body to block shots. It opens up opportunities for shorthanded rushes and is incredibly frustrating to the opposition.
Mavericks would have another high sticking call, this time on Justin Breton, with 4:21 remaining in the third. This one brought an animated John-Scott Dickson demanding an explanation from the officials. The penalty kill unit, again, stood strong with a lot of on the puck pressure to force the Wings to make decisions with the puck quicker than they’d like to.
After the penalty kill, Mike McMurtry had had enough and roofed a shot over Martin to put the Mavericks ahead 4-3 with 1:47 remaining. The Mavericks got a much-needed signature win after a couple of lackluster contests recently.
The Mavericks return to action on Saturday night against the Quad City Mallards.
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