As we approach the midpoint of the 2015-16 campaign, it’s time to take a look back and reflect on some of the incredible moments that we’ve seen so far from the Missouri Mavericks. With essentially an entire new team, with the exception of a select few returners, hopes were high that the Mavs could right the ship from their dreadful season a year ago, but few could honestly expect to see the unbelievable about-face that has occurred to this point.
There have been many factors that have contributed to their ECHL-best record of 29-3-1-1, which include winning streaks of seven, eight, and 14 games at different points. To be the best team in the league, contributions are needed throughout the lineup, and the depth of the Mavs has led them to the top. So, let’s pass out a little hardware to a few of those Mavs who have stood out above the rest:
Rookie of the Year – Tanner Fritz
Fritz has been the biggest surprise so far to this point, unless you ask anyone involved with the Mavs Hockey Operations. They knew that they were getting a player with talent and potential through the roof, coming off his tenure at Ohio State University.
After losing the likes of Jesse Root and Josh Holmstrom to call-ups, Fritz is one of several players that stepped their games up to a whole new lever. He currently ranks 14th in the league in rookie scoring, but will only continue to narrow that margin with the level at which he’s playing. His speed and quickness are a nightmare for opposing defensemen, and he creates match-up problems that are hard for opposing coaches to game plan against. Runner Up: Carter Verhaeghe
Game of the Year – 4-1 win over Allen on 11/17/15
Allen owned the Mavericks on their path towards their first Kelly Cup Championship last season. This season has been a different story. The Mavericks are currently 19 points ahead of Allen in the standings, and the start of building that gap came in an impressive 4-1 victory over the Americans at the Silverstein Eye Centers Area back in November. In a game completed dominated by the Mavs, a message was sent league-wide that this team was a legitimate contender to raise the Kelly Cup this season. Runner Up: Comeback victory in Evansville on 1/2/16
Defensive Player of the Year – Kane Lafranchise
Other teams would do just about anything to have the defensive unit that the Mavs flaunt on the ice every night. Honestly, this award could have gone to just about any blueliner that pulls on a Mavs sweater every night.
If you talk to the goaltenders after a game, the first thing that they can’t wait to say is how incredible the defense played in front of them, or how easy they make it on the goalies. Lafranchise has been arguably the most reliable one of the bunch. He leads the defensemen with 14 points in 33 games and is a solid +13. His ability to move the puck and jump up into rushes has made him a threat at both ends of the ice. Runner Up: Bryce Aneloski
Hockey Player Moment of the Year – Trevor Ludwig’s Busted Face
The Mavericks rallied back, down two goals late in the game, to beat Evansville 4-3 in overtime back on January 2nd. It was not the best showing for the Mavericks, but they managed to pick the pocket of the IceMen for two big points on the road. We all know how tough hockey players are, and Mavs’ captain Trevor Ludwig gave us yet another example. After a rogue skate from Nathan Moon caught Ludwig’s face, he needed multiple stitches to piece his schnoz back together. Mavs goalie Josh Robinson tweeted a picture (warning: graphic content) after the game that is below. Somehow, Ludwig returned to the bench after getting fixed up.
Offensive Player of the Year – Tyler Barnes
This is another award that could have gone to quite a few players. Jesse Root has been one of the top players in the ECHL. Rocco Carzo keeps racking up the assists. We’ve already talked about Tanner Fritz. However, it has been Barnes that has carried this team with some key contributors up in Bridgeport.
The reigning ECHL Rookie of the Year has definitely avoided the sophomore slump, leading the Mavs with 36 points which is good for third in the ECHL. Root, Holmstrom, Verhaeghe, and Colin Markison have all spent time with the Sound Tigers, not to mention that Kellen Jones is also gone, but it has been Barnes that has kept this team on its toes offensively. Runner Up: Jesse Root
Fight of the Year – Andrew Courtney vs. David Eddy 10/17/15
The Mavericks haven’t had many fights this season, and the times that they have dropped the gloves have been pretty uneventful to say the least. That’s not a bad thing. Fighting is something that this team doesn’t need to do. That’s not how they get in the heads of their opponents. That’s not how they win games. Sometimes, though, it’s inevitable and the punches have to be thrown. That was the case up in Alaska on opening weekend. Courtney and Eddy had been going at it all over the ice, and chirping each other when they weren’t doing physical battle. Finally, Courtney had enough of the shenanigans. Check it out:
Most Valuable Player – Josh Robinson
It’s hard to put into words what Robinson has been able to accomplish this season, but I’m going to take a shot. Through 19 starts, Robinson is 18-0-0-1. He has won 14 consecutive starts, the second longest streak in ECHL history. He is second in the league in Goals Against Average at 1.61. He ranks third in the league in Save Percentage at .937 and leads the league in wins. He has held the opposition to two or less goals in 13 of his 18 starts. He has two shutouts, and eight other starts where he’s only given up a single goal.
He’s done all of this while practically splitting time with Parker Milner, who has been pretty fantastic himself. Towards the end of last season, Robinson was really playing well, showing why Richard Matvichuk spoke so highly of him. He was sought after by many teams at the trade deadline last season, but Matvichuk held onto him, knowing what he was capable of doing between the pipes for this team. He couldn’t have been more right. It definitely helps to have the defensive unit in front of him, but no one can take away what Robinson has accomplished in the first half of this season. If he keeps up this pace, he’ll not only take away team MVP honors, but also ECHL MVP honors. Runner Up: Tyler Barnes