Kansas City Mavericks coach John-Scott Dickson was sitting in his office when player, after player, after player walked by, on their way to the locker room.
“We had an optional skate today,” a grinning Dickson said, “and everyone showed up. That’s when you know things are going good for a team.”
Captain Tyler Elbrecht agreed.
“All the boys are here,” Elbrecht said after a spirited 45-minute skating session with assistant Kyle Hood leading the team through a series of drills in preparation for Saturday’s home opener against Wichita. “Pretty cool to have everyone here.”
Especially after a 10-hour bus ride Wednesday from Kalamazoo, Mich., where the Mavericks used Mike McMurtry’s regulation goal and his lone shootout goal to claim a 4-3 come-from-behind victory over the Wings.
“You know what really impressed me about our win in Kalamazoo?” Dickson asked. “There was never any panic. I don’t think our team last year wins that game. This is just a different group, a really confident group, who is out there playing as a team four games into the season.”
“They took that 1-0 lead and we got the late goal from (Bryce) Aneloski to tie it up after one period.”
Aneloski scored at 19:02 of the first period to even the score at 1-1.
The Wings (3-0-0-1) scored twice in the second period to grab a 3-1 advantage.
“There was no panic because the boys knew they had had some scoring opportunities and just didn’t take advantage of them,” Dickson said.
McMurtry responded with a power play goal at the 15:40 mark of the second period to pull the Mavericks within 3-2 before the intermission.
Matt Robertson tied the game with 8:11 remaining, scoring on a rebound off a Justin Breton shot. That forced the game into overtime, in which neither team scored in the five-minute, 3-on-3 format.
McMurtry scored the lone shootout goal to make a winner of Mason McDonald, who replaced Tyler Parsons in goal after the first period. Representatives of the Mavericks’ NHL affiliate Calgary Flames were in attendance, so each goalie had an opportunity to play.
“Mason came in and played well in the two periods, overtime and the shootout,” Dickson said. “We are really strong in the net this year.”
It was McDonald’s first time on the ice this season.
“I got off to kind of a slow start,” McDonald said after the Thursday practice session. “But once I settled into a groove, I felt really good out there. And there was never any panic. This is a confident team. We’re 3-1 after four games on the road, and we’re all so excited about Saturday’s opener.
“Some of the guys have been here and know what it’s like to play in front of our fans have told the rest of us what it’s like, but I can’t wait to experience it firsthand. It’s going to be unbelievable! We’ve had fans on the road at Tulsa and Fort Wayne and we have fans come out and watch us at practice. And we know they’re all going to be here Saturday!”
The Mavericks (3-1-0-0), who now trail Kalamazoo by a point (7-6) for the ECHL Central Division lead, will host the rival Wichita Thunder at 7:05 p.m. Saturday at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena.
“We’re all excited about getting home and playing in front of our fans,” said Dickson, who has participated in four openers as a player and three as a coach. “There’s nothing like the home opener. We’re all excited about playing in front of our great fans. Our guys have met them at events and seen them on the road. Now they get to play for them.”