John-Scott Dickson was in search of a difference maker, and he found his man in a most unlikely place.

“We were down to four defensemen, because of all the movement on the roster, and we needed help,” the first-year Missouri Mavericks head coach said. “I mean, we really needed someone to step forward and join our defensemen.”

Rookie forward Shawn Pauly – a throwback to the old days when Mavericks players would visit with fans after games and spend time in the community during their rare off days – had caught Dickson’s eye.

“He’s the type of young guy you want to build an organization around,” Dickson said of the former University of Connecticut forward. “He loves this team, he loves this town. After the games he goes out and meets the fans, and I heard he went to the Kansas City Phantoms game (which was played at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena) the other day.

“We’re so fortunate to have him on our team because he always wants to learn and get better. I thought I’d ask him about playing defense and he was really receptive. Then, we watched him, and he made it look easy – and believe me, it’s not as easy as he made it look.”

Pauly joined Zach Tolkinen and Ryan Obuchowski and made an immediate impact.

“I’ll do anything for this team, for coach, for our fans, for my teammates. I love it here and want to be here a long time,” Pauly said when asked about making the switch to defense. “At first, I was out there and had to think about what I was doing.

“But Tolki and Obi made my job easy. I just kind of followed their lead and did what they did, and now I feel pretty comfortable out there and feel like I know what I’m doing.

“In fact, I might play forward one period or one shift and then go back and play defense and I like that opportunity. People ask me if it’s a challenge, and I say no, it’s an opportunity for me to get better and to help us make this playoff push.”

The Mavericks take a 28-24-3-5 overall record to Moline, Illinois, where they play the Quad City Mallards Friday and Saturday. Missouri has 64 points and is in sixth place in the ECHL’s Mountain Division behind Utah (65) and Alaska (69 points). The top four teams from each division go on to postseason play.

“Every game is like a playoff game, and that’s make the rest of the season really exciting,” Pauly said. “The most games I’ve ever played is 50 – back in the NAHL (North American Hockey League). But I’m really pacing myself and working hard to stay in shape.

“I’m eating right, getting plenty of sleep and stretching before and after every game. I want to be ready for the playoff push – which has really been going on the last month or so.”

Pauly came to the Mavericks with excellent credentials. He was a player who was known for his work ethic and ability to make things happen out on the ice.

He scored 83 points at Connecticut. Before that, he was the most decorated player in the history of the NAHL’s Wenatchee Wild, where he was the all-time career leader in points (123) and assists (73) and set a single-season assist mark with 36 in 2011-12.

“Shawn has been really good, and it’s nice to see him get rewarded,” Wild head coach John Becanic said back when Pauly was starring for the Wild. “I don’t know where our team would have been without him this year.”

Dickson could echo those comments.

“When we really needed defensive help, Shawn was there. He’s a guy who will do anything to help a team,” Dickson said. “People said back when I was a member of the Mavericks, that I played for the name on the front of my jersey, not the name on the back.

“That’s how I feel about Shawn. He’s a Mavericks player through and through.”