On January 23rd, 2015, the Missouri Mavericks made what seemed to be another transaction to help stop the bleeding of a dreadful season. The team traded for the ECHL rights to goaltender Josh Robinson from the Elmira Jackals. Six days later, Robinson signed his contract and agreed to come back to North American hockey after a brief stint in Austria, with numbers that left much to be desired.
The Mavericks were extremely thin between the pipes at the time. Mike Clemente had been inconsistent at best, and Maxime Lagace never appeared to be fully comfortable in a Mavs sweater. At that point, what did Coach Richard Matvichuk have to lose by bringing in some fresh blood to spice things up in net? The team was struggling and in the midst of rebuilding towards the next season. Matvichuk would be in evaluation-mode for the rest of the campaign, trying to identify players that had a legitimate chance to make an impact on the future season.
The start of Robinson’s career as a Mavericks didn’t exactly get off to a smashing start. He lost his first five starts, giving up 16 goals over that span. Granted, he didn’t have the best defensive unit in front of him, but there was going to be an obvious adjustment period for Robinson as he transition from the European game back to North America. What made things worse for him was that patience wasn’t exactly a virtue that many of us had left in the tank at that point. Then in his sixth start, a 35-save beauty of a performance and his first win as a Maverick, it was apparent that he had what it took to be an effective goalie for this team. There were other rough patches along the way, but with each passing game, Robinson flashed more and more brilliance, and it was clear that he was the best goalie on that roster.
As the 2015 Trade Deadline approached, the Mavericks were very active. The season was a bust, and it was time for Matvichuk and Mavericks’ General Manager Brent Thiessen to make some tough decisions. Key players were shipped out in the hopes that the haul of talent that they would bring in return would help pick up the pieces of a broken season, and set this team up for a return to success in 2016. Josh Brittain, David Rutherford, Jack Downing, Marty Lee, and Landon Oslanski were traded for a multitude of players, players that like Rocco Carzo, David de Kastrozza, and Tristan King (who was later flipped for Trevor Ludwig) that are having a major impact now. Rumors started to swirl regarding Robinson’s future. There were a few teams that were in the playoff hunt that needed help in net. Robinson would fill a need for so many contenders for the stretch run, and the Mavs probably could have gotten a nice return for him. With a slew of moves already under their belts, it will be the move that Thiessen and Matvichuk didn’t make that has had the biggest impact on this team.
As Thiessen and Matvichuk were building their team for 2016, it was apparent that they were going to do so with defense in mind. Matvichuk has preached the concept of being a sound defensive team at all positions, but everyone knows that the goaltender is the most important position on the ice. The Mavs re-signed Robinson for another year in Orange, and former Quad City Mallard (and Maverick killer) Parker Milner would eventually be assigned by Bridgeport. For the first time in a long time, fans were excited about the goalie tandem, and rightfully so. Even though Robinson was one of the few returning players, it was expected that Milner would be the starter and shoulder the load protecting the cage. His numbers were better than Robinson and he was the AHL contracted goalie. All signs pointed to him.
Talking to Robinson before the season, he wasn’t bothered by that notion. All he was worried about was stopping pucks, and playing his best when he got the opportunity. The Mavericks would drop their first game of the season against the Alaska Aces with Milner in net, although he played quite well. Milner was called up to Bridgeport the next day, and the rest is history. Robinson would pitch a 25 save shutout in his first start, and stopped 27 of 28 shots in the Sunday matinee affair with the Aces to lead the Mavs to a series victory. Since then, Robinson has lost once, just once, and it was in a shootout at the hands of the Tulsa Oilers. His record currently stands at 21-0-0-1, which is as ridiculous as it sounds.
There have been many noteworthy moments throughout this season, but it is that 21st victory for Robinson that will forever be etched in the history books. That victory was his 17th consecutive win, a new ECHL record. The game itself wasn’t pretty by any means. For the second time in as many meetings, the Mavericks fell behind the Evansville IceMen, a team whose record would make you think that the Mavs would skate away to an easy two points. Not so much. The IceMen have given the Mavs all they could handle lately, and nearly spoiled what ended up being a celebratory night. Tanner Fritz beat Christoffer Bengtsberg just 42 seconds into overtime to give the Mavs a 6-5 come from behind victory, and put Robinson into the record books.
After the puck hit twine, it was a great moment to see the players mob Fritz for his heroics, then immediately mob Robinson for this amazing accomplishment. Robinson has come a long was since his shaky Mavericks debut, and deserves every ounce of respect and praise thrown his way. Who would have thought that what seemed like just another transaction in the middle of the Season of the Revolving Door, would turn out to be a goalie that is making his claim to be the best that this organization has even seen. He may not be there yet, but with every game that passes, and he notches another win on his belt, Josh Robinson is surely stating his claim to be just that.
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