We’ve reached the halfway point in the Missouri Mavericks season and the term “roller coaster” appropriately defines the Mavericks season so far. The Mavericks continue to show shining moments of a team that has potential to do some damage in the playoffs, but as they currently sit the Mavericks have some work to do to get into the hallowed second season of hockey. The Sin Bin’s Joe Rozycki and Adam Twenter take a look at the first half of the season and present some awards to deserving Mavericks players.
Rookie of the Year
With as many rookies as the Mavericks have this year, this is the most difficult award to hand out. After considerable debate, I’m picking Ryan Obuchowski as the Mavericks ROY at the midway point. Obuchowski has been remarkably consistent this season on the blue line and has shown flashes as an offensive threat from there. It is rare to find Ryan out of position on defense and his play in the neutral zone has improved as the season has progressed. With 13 points, (2 G, 11 A) Obuchowski is on pace for more points than any year in college at Yale.
Runner-up: With Obuchowski as my ROY, Kevin Tansey is the obvious choice as runner-up. Tansey has been as consistent as any Mavericks player this season, rookie or otherwise. The lone Mavericks All-Star selection, it’s been very easy to see why Tansey got such a long look by the St. Louis Blues in their pre-season camp. The sky is the limit with Tansey.
The issues on the defensive side of the puck are well-documented with this team, but that certainly hasn’t been the case with my choice for Rookie of the Year, Kevin Tansey. Tansey has been the rock on that blueline, and has really contributed offensively as well. He was the lone All-Star selection from the Mavs, and he deserves that honor. With Bryce Aneloski gone for most of the season to this point (and likely the remainder of the season), Tansey has stepped up to fill that leadership role on the Mavs defense.
Runner-up: Dan Correale has really taken strides in the last couple of months to warrant being in the conversation. After a slow start to the season, Correale has turned it on lately, using his blazing speed to be a dynamic offensive threat. Also, he one of the best penalty killers on the team, and has proven that he’ll do anything to help this team, which includes throwing his body in front of slapshot after slapshot which has earned him great respect.
Offensive Player of the Year
This one is considerably easier than Rookie of the Year. The Mavericks most consistent threat offensively since the season began has been Dane Fox. Looking at the game sheet from a recent game, Fox had 11 of the Mavericks 31 shots. He is a threat to score each time he touches the puck and other teams are keying in on that. In theory, that should open up scoring opportunities for the other forwards on his line. Fox’s play has been nothing short of great for the Mavericks this year with his aggressive style of two way hockey. Fox never takes a shift off and consistently moves the puck to put himself and his teammates in position to score.
Runner-Up: Darren Nowick has been outstanding in a follow up to his late season arrival last year. While Nowick could easily be the ROY, I went with players that hadn’t played in the ECHL at all prior to this year. Nowick looks like a seasoned veteran on the ice with his aggression and speed. He consistently creates havoc on the back check and creates scoring opportunities.
After making an immediate impact with the Mavericks last season, Darren Nowick has become an impact player every time the puck is on his stick. His speed and agility make him a match-up nightmare for opposing coaches, and his vision on the ice has increased dramatically. For a team that has lacked scoring at time, Nowick has carried them through doldrums and continues to get better with each passing shift. His 35 points trail only Dane Fox and are good for fourth amongst all ECHL rookies.
Runner-Up: Dane Fox was brought in this season to be an offensive force and provide veteran leadership. He has lived up to every expectation so far. Fox leads the team with 41 points and is second in power play goals with four, trailing only Nowick (six).
Defensive Player of the Year
I know it’s weird that he didn’t make my ROY, but Kevin Tansey has played like anything but a rookie. Tansey has shown flashes of National Hockey League brilliance this season and as he told me in a recent interview (watch for that story soon), Tansey is enjoying his best offensive season of his career. Tansey has a bright future ahead of him and Mavericks fans should enjoy him while we have him.
Runner-Up: Tyler Elbrecht has been the Mavericks face of consistency on the blue line with Bryce Aneloski no longer on this roster with a full American Hockey League contract signed recently. Elbrecht fills the role of the veteran quarterback on the Mavs defensive unit.
Tansey, Kevin. See explanation above.
Runner-Up: I really wanted to go with Ryan Obuchowski for my runner-up. I really did. I think he’s made great strides throughout the course of the season and probably has made the most progress since game one besides Nowick and Correale. However, I’m going with Matt Finn. I know that he had a rough stretch earlier in the season, but I think he was playing outside of the realm of his strengths, trying to be someting that he’s not. Once he started jumping into the rush and getting involved offensively, his confidence came back, and he was much better on the defensive end because of it. He is one of the better defenseman in this league, and when he’s playing at the top of his game, he belongs in the AHL.
Goalie of the Year
This one is tough because none of the Mavericks goalies have had consistent time in net over an extended period of time. Ville Husso is my pick as goaltender of the year so far. While Ville struggled early in the season, he rebounded nicely and put together a tremendous stretch of goaltending under the watchful eye of St. Louis Blues goalie development coach, Ty Conklin. Husso has since been called up to the Chicago Wolves and with the recent struggles the Blues have had in net, I wouldn’t expect to see Husso back in Independence anytime soon. In fact, don’t be surprised to see Husso get a look in St. Louis if the Blues fall out of playoff contention in the second half of the season. The Blues see him as a potential goalie of the future for the franchise.
Runner-Up: It’s hard to follow-up arguably the best season in ECHL history for a goalie, but Josh Robinson is still proving to be a valuable asset to the Mavericks each time he takes his place in the crease. While his playing time hasn’t been as consistent as I’m sure he’d like, Robinson has been the professional we’ve all come to know and respect.
I’d have to go with Ville Husso as well, as silly as that is considering he’ll probably never wear a Mavs sweater again. We got to see exactly why the Blues love this guy so much. After a rocky start, he was nails between the pipes. He kept the Mavs in games that they had no business being in, and stole a few wins that they had no business winning. Husso has a bright future ahead of him.
Runner-Up: Make no mistake, Josh Robinson is still Josh Robinson. Don’t let the numbers fool you. Every part of his game that led to his Goaltender of the Year award a season ago is alive and well. Defensive lapses have crippled this team at times, and have really done a number of the goalies’ statistics. If the Mavs can sure things up in the defensive end, Robinson’s number will continue to tick upwards.
Moment of the Year
The New Year Eve’s game, in my mind, was a game the Mavericks needed to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Mavs played as complete of a game as I’ve seen from this team and used the momentum from a rowdy, sellout crowd to gain a huge victory. The smiles from the boys as they skated with fans after the game were encouraging as the Mavericks continue into the second half of the season.
Runner-Up: The ten goal outburst against a tired Oilers team stands out as something the Mavericks can hang their hat on. They didn’t let off the gas the entire game and kept pouring on the goals. A hat trick by Lukas Lofquist highlighted his tenure in a Mavericks sweater.
The comeback against Wichita on January 6th has to be at the top of my list. That was one of the more exciting games that I’ve ever seen the Mavericks play. Down 4-0, Missouri rattled off five unanswered goals, including the dramatic game-winner in overtime by Correale to complete a beyond-improbable comeback. The SECA was rocking that night, and rightfully so.
Runner-Up: Not to double-up on the comeback theme, but the come from behind victory against the Florida Everblades on November 19th would be high on the list as well. The Mavs trailed 3-1 late in the game. Tansey scored to cut the lead to one, and Sam Povorozniouk would net the equalizer late in regulation. After a scoreless overtime, Povorozniouk would score the only goal for either side in the shootout and the Mavs would sneak out of Germain Arena with a stolen win. It was a hard-fought win against one of the best teams in the league in their own barn. Moments like that are what lead to the belief that the Mavericks are a good team and can play with the best of the best. Now they just have to do it on a consistent basis.
Most Valuable Player
Without a doubt, Rocco Carzo. What can be said about Rocco that hasn’t already been said? The things that Rocco Carzo brings to a team are undefinable and irreplaceable. His leadership through the rocky points of this season are a true representation of his character and work ethic. It’s difficult to continually lay down in front of opposing shots time after time, but Carzo works hard at perfecting the little things that are necessary to win and be in the game of hockey for a long, long time.
Runner-Up: Dan Correale. I know…it surprised me when I typed that too. But, what a surprise Dirty Dan has been this season for the Mavericks. He’s taken a page from Carzo’s book and plays excellent two-way hockey while playing gritty hockey in the shot lanes. Correale’s speed is as good as anyone in the league and watching him, Nowick, and Fox on a line together is as intimidating as you’ll find.
There is one correct choice for this award, and that is Rocco Carzo IV. He might be, might be, the best two-way player this organization has ever seen. He leads by example on both ends of the ice, and makes the players around him better. In the waning years of Andrew Courtney’s career, Carzo is etching his name into Mavericks lore as one of the greats. He has embraced this organization, this fan base, and this community as wholly as any player that has pulled on a Mavs sweater, earning him the respect of anyone that crosses his path. He leaves everything on the ice on a nightly basis and just when you think you know how tough RCIV is, he shows you something even more Chuck Norris-esque the next night.
Runner-Up: I couldn’t pick just one. I know, I know, it looks like a cop-out. However, after Carzo, it’s hard to say who between Tansey, Fox, and Nowick has been more valuable to this team. All three bring such different styles of game to the ice, and each are just as important as the other. So, cop-out or not, I have a three-way tie for my Runner-Up. Deal with it.