INDEPENDENCE, MO – Rough patches occur throughout the course of a marathon hockey season. It is bound to happen with 72 games on the slate. The campaign is often likened to a roller coaster, and rightfully so. There are moments of euphoria, stress, stomach-churning tension, excitement, and thrills. The key is to limit the valleys and extend the peaks for as long as possible. The teams that can do that will find themselves in the postseason.
From November 1st through November 11th, the Kansas City Mavericks found themselves in one of those rough patches. It wasn’t pretty. It certainly felt like a hell of a lot longer than an 11-day stretch. Those valleys always seem longer in duration than they actually are. However, during that stretch, the Mavericks were able to squeeze out a shootout victory in Atlanta and that’s about it. They gave up a touchdown in Greenville after having a three-goal lead. They got thumped by Wichita twice. They dropped their chance to sweep the Gladiators on the road. They looked lost and frustration was beginning to set in.
The Mavericks needed a spark and they needed it to come quickly. Tulsa was coming to town for the annual Kids’ Day Game, the one mid-week home day game on the schedule. The team hosted their first game of this type last season, and it was a signature win on their schedule, a convincing win against the Allen Americans in front of 5,000 screaming school kids. That game was exactly what they needed last season, and the hope was that this year’s version could be a remedy for their recent woes as well.
That spark that they desperately needed was lit just 2:23 into the game. Some kindling was provided just over four minutes later. Then a gas can was dumped onto that open flame at the end of the 5-2 victory over the Oilers. The turmoil of that 11-day stretch melted away in that blaze. The player that struck the match to start it all was not one that anyone would have expected. That player was Mavericks forward/defenseman/utility man/Mr. Do It All – Shawn Pauly.
Pauly has always been well-liked by the Orange Army, and he’s earned that respect. He has been a team-first guy, always willing to do whatever he can to help the cause. He’s logged big minutes on different lines, filled in on defense when the blue line was decimated with injuries, gone to battle in the trenches on the ice, and laid his body in front of countless howitzer blasts from the point. His scoring prowess, however, isn’t an area that he has been known for. In fact, prior to his hat trick, four-point outburst against Tulsa, Pauly had only registered 16 points in 61 contests for the Mavericks. That doesn’t diminish his contributions though, as he’s been heavily relied on, in many different roles. A role that no one saw coming, myself included, was offensive savior. It’s not a role that is expected to stick with Pauly throughout the course of the season, but just like everything else he has done for this team, it’s one that he stepped into when his team needed him the most.
Since that Tulsa victory, the Mavericks have looked like a completely different team. They currently hold a five-game winning streak, four of which have come on the road, and all have been against formidable opponents. The Mavericks won in overtime in one of the hardest arenas to play at Fort Wayne, they finally solved the Wichita Thunder, and they swept Quad City at the TaxSlayer Center in Moline. Offensive struggles have plagued them so far, but over that five-game stretch, the Mavericks have found twine 18 times, five of which have come on the power play.
Yes, the overall play of the team has greatly improved from top to bottom. The defensive unit seems to be getting better and better every game. Tyler Parsons has shaken off a couple of rough early starts and now looks like every bit of the top prospect in the Flames organization (including his first professional shutout Sunday against Quad City), the power play has looked sharp and the penalty kill solid, and scoring has come from all three lines. This is one of those peaks on the roller coaster ride that the Mavericks will look to extend for as long as possible.
This peak was brought to you by Pauly. His five goals and two assists on the season through 15 games put him on pace to shatter his results from his rookie campaign (six goals and eight assists). However, when looking back on this season, three of those goals will stand out the most. Those three goals gave this team the kick in the pants that it most desperately needed. Those three goals were a swift slap to the face on a cold day that rattled the teeth. Those three goals pulled the Mavericks out of a doldrum that had begun to consume them. That is what Pauly does best. He does whatever is needed for his team, whenever they need it the most.