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INDEPENDENCE, Mo. – The Kansas City Mavericks have been accustomed to a roller coaster ride over the past two seasons. As they enter the last two weeks of the regular season, they’re embarking on that last little lull when you think the ride might be over before dropping into another series of dips and whoops. With a crucial four-game set away from the friendlier confines of Silverstein Eye Centers Arena looming on the horizon, the Mavericks grit and determination will be tested more so than at any point this season.

Let’s take an opponent-by-opponent look at what is coming up for the Mavs.

Friday and Saturday will find the Mavericks against their old foe, the Allen Americans. The Americans are right in the middle of the playoff fight and find themselves down a key player as Olivier Archambault has left the team to pursue an opportunity with the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League. The Mavericks know the Americans, and their style of play very well. They have seen Steve Martinson employ any and all tactics necessary to try and achieve a victory.

For the Mavericks to be successful, they will need to be mentally tough and maintain their grit in front of the net. The Mavs thrive on “dirty goals” as coach John-Scott Dickson likes to call them. With players like Shawn Pauly and Mark Cooper living in front of the opposing goalie, the Mavs need that rugged determination and desperation in their game.

The Americans will be looking to maintain and potentially improve their playoff position. The Americans currently sit in the fourth and final playoff spot with Tulsa breathing right down their neck. Tulsa has a three-game set with the Quad City Mallards coming up and could easily take six of six possible points.

The Mavericks are going to get everything the Americans have and must able to maintain their discipline and composure to come out successful. Pauly has become an absolute force for this team, especially when playing with a chip on his shoulder. Combine that with timely scoring from Jared VanWormer over the past few weeks, and the Mavs have pieced together a roster that can be dangerous in a seven-game series.

Following the Americans, the Mavs will again hit the road for another incredibly physical game against the Fort Wayne Komets. Fort Wayne has one of the best home-ice advantages in the ECHL and scraping out one point against the Komets would have to be considered a victory. That said, the Mavericks won their last outing against the red-hot Komets with that game being in Kansas City and will be looking to tag two in the point column.

The Komets rely on physical play and the sniping abilities of their forwards. They are also battling the injury bug right now, with several key players being out. If Kansas City can play like they did against Wichita Tuesday night, this is a very winnable game for the Mavs.

The Mavericks have a bit of a goaltending conundrum right now with Adam Carlson playing out of his mind and Flames’ prospects Tyler Parsons and Mason McDonald sitting behind him ready to pounce on their next opportunity. The Mavs have endured a proverbial carousel of goalies this season and have somehow survived it. John-Scott Dickson has chosen to ride the hot-hand of Carlson the past few games and it has paid off considerably.

The four-game away set concludes against the surprisingly resilient Indy Fuel. The Fuel have appeared from out of nowhere in the last six weeks and have become a player in the tight Central Division playoff hunt. The Mavs essentially control their own destiny against the Fuel with the game in Indy and one coming up at home on April 3rd. Two points here would be a potential dagger to the Fuel and potentially make the last Central playoff position a two-horse race with the Mavs and Kalamazoo Wings.

Speaking of the Wings, they have their own trials to deal with shortly as they embark on a five games in seven days road trip through Toledo, South Carolina, Atlanta and Norfolk. No thanks, I’m good.

The playoff picture is going to come into focus a lot more for the Mavericks over these four games and they should have a better idea of what they need to do in the final week of the season after the next week and a half.

Dickson has credited his team’s grit time and time again since the calendar turned over and the roster has solidified into what it is right now. He seems to be happy with who he has wearing the orange and black and they seem to have come together the last six weeks. There’s a lot of heart and determination in that locker room and the chemistry this team desperately needed back in October, November, and December is finally starting to show itself. It’s do or die time for Kansas City as the roller coaster begins it’s descent back into the station.

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