The Missouri Mavericks are on pace to break many marks currently notated in the ECHL record book, most notably the single season wins record and the single season winning percentage record. There is no denying that the Mavs are currently the best team in the league. They have jumped out to a 27-3-0-1 record (which even seems crazy to type), lead the league in goals scored per game, goals allowed per game, and are the least penalized team as well.
The Mavericks are on pace to win 63 games this season. 63. That is insanity. Will they reach that mark? Doubtful. Every team runs into a rough stretch throughout the course of a 72 game season, and the Mavericks have yet to encounter that. That day will come, but it will probably end up being beneficial at the end of the day. However, if they do surpass the single season wins record of 56 set by the 2001-02 Louisiana Ice Gators, we will look to players like Jesse Root, Tyler Barnes, and Josh Robinson as the primary reasons that this team would go down in the record books. However, one of the biggest reasons that the Mavs are on such a torrid pace is the incredible depth that they have all over the ice.
On the offensive side of the puck, Root and Barnes definitely deserve any and all accolades that they receive. They are arguably two of the top ten, maybe even top five, forwards in the entire ECHL. That being said, something that I’ve talked about quite a bit this season is the importance of secondary scoring. There is no shortage of talent on any of the Mavericks’ four lines. Rocco Carzo has been the dish master and is second on the team with 19 assists, trailing only Barnes (20). He always puts himself and his linemates in great positions to score, and the helpers that he is piling up shows just that. Andrew Courtney is starting to get hot, notching six goals since December 5th, and is one of five Maverick players with double-digit goals. Not to state the obvious with Courtney, but when he’s playing with confidence, opposing netminders don’t stand much of a chance. Tanner Fritz has been one of the best stories for the Mavs so far this year. The rookie forward has 21 points in 26 games and is an incredible +19. His speed and quickness has caused matchup nightmares for opposing blueliners and it is borderline unfair when he and Colin Markison (currently playing with Bridgeport) are on the ice at the same time. One of the players that I will be keeping an eye on as we approach the second half of the season is David de Kastrozza. After battling back from injury, de Kastrozza has played some big minutes and has scored some even bigger goals. He has a great mix of size, skill, and quickness that can be tough for opposing teams. He could be a big contributor moving forward.
Defensively, the Mavericks also have one of the most stout blue lines in all of the ECHL. Led by the stellar two-way play of Kane Lafranchise, and the thunderous open-ice hits of CJ Ludwig, the Mavericks defense doesn’t get nearly enough credit as they deserve. Mavs captain Trevor Ludwig continues to be a force, Bryce Aneloski has really come on strong as of late, and Pat Cullity (also currently in Bridgeport) might be the most physical defenseman on the team. If he returns to the Mavs, watch him for a few shifts. Watch as he goes to war in the corners, and destroys opposing forwards that try to set up camp in front of the Mavs net. That’s the kind of player that defines what this team is all about.
Let’s not forget that the best player on the ice needs to be the one that stands between the pipes. The Mavericks had the best goalie tandem in the league in Josh Robinson and Parker Milner, with both goalies in the top five in goals against average and save percentage so far this season. Now that Milner has been called up to the AHL, Stephon Williams joins the fold, and he should hit the ground running. The former fourth round pick of the New York Islanders back in 2013 had an impressive collegiate career at the University of Minnesota-Mankato, and put up some great numbers in Bridgeport as well. While Williams should fit in nicely to replace Milner, this has been the year of Josh Robinson to this point. The Warrior ECHL Goaltender of the Month for December is currently second in GAA, third in save percentage, and has an unbelievable record of 17-0-0-1, having won 13 consecutive starts, the second longest streak in league history. I do not need to say one more word about Robinson. Those numbers paint a mind-blowing portrait of what he has done, protecting the Mavs’ cage every night.
The Mavericks are having a storybook season, led by some of the league’s best. While the plot of every story is vital, the ending is what we all remember. If the Mavericks want to wrap up 2016 with a fairy tale ending, they’ll not only need the big guns to keep firing, they’ll also need each and every player on that roster to make contributions. That has happened so far, and look at how well that has worked out.