INDEPENDENCE, Mo. – The Mavericks played their last two home games until December 21st this past weekend and walked away with two wins against divisional rival Allen Americans. They won Friday’s game by a score of 6-2 and galloped back in a late goal battle to win Saturday’s game, 4-3. The standings did not factor into this game much as Allen sits at the bottom of the ECHL Mountain Division, but the Mavericks were prepared for the physical game they bring and not expect to be guaranteed these wins.
In the words of team captain Rocco Carzo:
“Everyone is big at this point we need to get the points when we can. It doesn’t matter if we’re playing the last place team or first place team. At the end of the season when you’re struggling for that last spot in the playoffs these points are going to come back to either help you or hurt you.”
Friday’s game held sentimental value for one player in particular. David Dziurzynski played in his 500th professional game and on top of that, notched two of the six goals for the Mavericks and rewarded with the first star of the night. Dziurzynski reflected after the game, “It feels good. It’s been a long time coming. It’s a milestone. I’m happy to get to do that in pro hockey and it’s nice to add the two goals on top of that.”
Dziurzynski also took the chance to reflect on the last 500 games and these were some of the memories that stuck out. “My rookie year in the American Hockey League, I won the Calder Cup so that is probably the biggest one. My first NHL goal that was a big one. I have had a lot of great memories but those two are probably the biggest.”
Dziurzynski was not the only Mavericks player to reach a milestone in the last couple of games. Carzo played in his 300th game on Tuesday’s game in Indy. Comparing himself to Dziurzynski – both the same age at 29 years old – hitting these huge milestones he said:
“It’s fun. We have a good group of older guys. We bring experience and we bring something different from each of us. You know we’re getting old but you know what, we still have some left in us for the stretch here.”
Friday’s game was more of a victory to be proud of, but the Mavs still found a way to win on Saturday. They got up on Allen 2-0 in the first period and did not score again until Allen got three quick goals in the last ten minutes of the third period. The force was strong with the home team on Star Wars night and none other than Carzo tied it up and 33 seconds later Cliff Watson got the game-winning goal.
Watson said, “That’s a tough situation in any game and any guy will tell you at that point you’re on your heels, you’re nervous and you don’t want to lose a game you’ve been up the whole time.” Watson felt as if the Americans lulled them to sleep a bit in the third period but the team was able to flip the switch after the goals and find a way to come out on top. Watson also put up two goals on the game on Friday.
Head Coach John-Scott Dickson was pretty happy with the team’s play on Friday, giving netminder Ben Halford a lot of credit.
“I thought he was solid, he made some good saves at the end there. Especially on the penalty kill for the last 20 seconds. We thought it would be good to mix him into some games and get him feeling the puck and hopefully we can do more of that.” – Mavericks coach John-Scott Dickson
Dickson made sure to give him even more time this weekend as Halford got the nod in Saturday’s game as well. After these two games, Halford sits at a 0.920 save percentage and a 2.67 goals against average. Halford took little credit, happy to see his defense intercepting passes and blocking shots so he did not end up seeing at many at the net. “Anytime you break up those passes. What did they have like 20 shots? That’s a good day for me,” said Halford.
Halford was unsure of how long he would be sticking around the Mavericks with the season starting out with Mason McDonald and Nick Schneider appearing to be the goalie pair for this season. Schneider got the call up to Stockton on October 30th and has not been back since. Stockton faced some goalie troubles for the start of the season and appeared to bring him in to help but has since stayed up there to cover injuries. Since then, Halford has become a big part of that squad with ten games played and a 0.915 save percentage. Halford has filled a backup role for Kansas City this season and has been doing an excellent job at that. Halford said, “Having that support system is around is a huge help.” Halford went on to explain how his teammates are always willing to get out on the ice early and give him or McDonald extra shots.
In other team news, Jordan Ernst got called up to Stockton on December 7, but that is not the only person associated with the Mavericks going to California. Communications Director Brandon Weiss was also offered to take up his same role in Stockton and these were his last home Mavericks games. Weiss did a great job accommodating the media and the team and will be greatly missed around Silverstein Ice Centers Arena.
General Manager Brent Thiessen also signed a three-year extension with the team on December 6.
The Mavericks hit the road for four games. three against the Idaho Steelheads and a match against Wichita. They will be back home to host the Tulsa Oilers on Friday, December 21st. They currently sit in the second position in the Mountain Division and sixth in the ECHL with 30 points.