INDEPENDENCE, MO – The Kansas City Mavericks have only played 27 games so far this season, so it’s probably a bit premature to be thinking about anything postseason-related. However, there are several moments over the course of a 72 game season that could be viewed as “defining moments.” Some of these moments aren’t recognized until they’ve already passed, leaving us ample opportunity to analyze, judge, and use hindsight to break them down. On the flip side, there are some moments that are staring a team right in the eye, like an alligator-filled moat that can only be crossed by the swiftest of swimmers.
The latter is what the Mavericks currently face; an upcoming seven-game road trip against three different formidable opponents, all housed in the Mountain Division, arguably the best division in the ECHL. The Mavericks open this gauntlet Tuesday night with back-to-back games against their arch nemesis, the Allen Americans. After 120 minutes (or possibly more) against Allen, the Mavericks will head to Wichita for a pair of games to take on the resurgent Thunder team that has recently welcomed back goalie Shane Starrett after a cup of coffee with Bakersfield in the AHL. All Starrett has done is induce nightmares with his highlight reel saves whilst stimying the Mavericks over his 2-0-2 record, 2.00 goals against average, and .945 save percentage against Kansas City this season. The road trip concludes with a three-game set in Tulsa to take on the Oilers. After a slow start, Oilers coach Rob Murray has his team playing their best hockey of the season, which included recently knocking off the defending Kelly Cup Champion Colorado Eagles before their weekend sweep of the Mavericks.
Seven games, 14 possible points, against three tough opponents before coming home to wrap up the calendar year. Last year’s version of the Mavericks was just starting to hit their stride around the turn of the year and put together a second half that was impressive to watch. After going 3-6-1 in their last 10 games, missing three top forwards and their best defenseman, watching their star rookie netminder fall to injury, and going toe to toe with one of the best teams in the league but only being able to squeak out one of four possible points, the Mavericks are a little beaten down at the moment. That will happen over the course of a marathon season, but now is not the time to be licking wounds. Now is the time to build momentum for the second half, and put themselves in a position to earn a postseason berth.
This is not just one defining moment for the Mavericks, but seven individual defining moments. Each game holds significant value towards righting the ship. It starts Tuesday night in Allen. The Mavericks can’t look ahead to Wednesday, Friday in Wichita, or New Year’s when they are finally back home. Their focus needs to be on winning every shift, finishing every check, and getting back to that North-South hockey that has smothered opponents in the past. To borrow a phrase from “Letterkenny,” my favorite television show: “Forecheck. Backcheck. Paycheck.” Yes, I know I am drastically over-simplifying things, but simplicity is a staple of the Mavericks’ game when they are playing well.
Their showing last weekend against the defending champs was inspired. The Mavericks went 12 rounds on back-to-back nights with one of the heaviest hitters in the league. We’re getting to the point of the season where moral victories are useless though. Yes, they played well against Colorado and probably deserved more than the singular point that they earned in the standings but this is a results-oriented business. The time for turning moral victories into tangible victories is now. They can’t wait until after the champagne toasts are over and confetti falls from the skies to celebrate the coming of the new year. They did that last season and it was too little too late. There are seven defining moments staring them in the face. It’s time for these Kansas City Mavericks to decide which team they are going to be.
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