A solid 60 minutes of hockey Friday night at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena helped the Kansas City Mavericks inch closer to the .500 mark at home.
The Mavericks downed a Central Division opponent and put a smile on the face of coach John-Scott Dickson as they dominated the Kalamazoo Wings 4-2.
“That might be the best 60 minutes of hockey we’ve played this season,” Dickson said after the Mavericks improved to 19-16-0-1 overall and 6-8-0-1 at home, “and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
“We’re playing Kalamazoo (15-12-2-1) and Quad City (at 7:05 p.m. Saturday), and they are both division opponents who we are ahead of in the standings. We need to take care of business tomorrow night and get a four-point weekend.”
The Mavericks dominated all phases of the game Friday without their ECHL all-star representative and leading scorer (32 points) Mike McMurtry, who was called up Thursday to the Stockton Heat, Kansas City’s American Hockey League affiliate.
“We’re happy for Mike,” Dickson said, “and we’re happy for Darren (Nowick) and Tyler (Parsons, who were also called up earlier in the week) but we have to take care of business back home. I don’t know if the guys thought about stepping up their game because we lost Mike and Darren, but they sure did that tonight – great goaltending from Mase (Mason McDonald) and solid 60 minutes out on the ice.”
Two quick goals by Greg Betzold and Matt Robertson gave Kansas City an early 2-0 lead. Betzold was able to take advantage of a turnover in front of the Wings’ net to score unassisted just 2:47 into the game. Robertson scored on a breakaway, off a pinpoint lead pass from Eric Freschi at the 9:19 mark.
The Wings cut that lead in half at 13:06 of the second quarter on a goal by Aaron Irving, but the Mavericks’ Troy Donnay answered just 30 seconds later on assists from Dan Correale and Jordan Kwas to make it 3-1.
Kwas then scored a power-play goal on assists from Mark Cooper and Bryce Aneloski to make it 4-1 until the remaining seconds, when Kalamazoo’s when Josh Pitt beat McDonald with just 13 seconds left.
“I put three guys out on the ice,” Dickson said, momentarily losing the smile that had been on his face, “and told them to block the puck. The puck hit off the backboard, it was not blocked and they scored. I’m PO’d about that, but happy about everything else.”
McDonald, who had been at Stockton until returning to the Mavericks Wednesday, stopped 27 of 29 shots.
“A big win against a division opponent,” McDonald said. “I was able to settle in early, make some saves, the guys gave me a quick 2-0 and it was a good night, a very good night.”
Kwas, the No. 1 star of the game with a goal and assist, said he and his teammates must pick up the slack left from the promotion of Nowick and McMurtry.
“It’s nothing that has been said, but all the guys know we have to pick up our game,” Kwas said. “The guys with smaller roles now have larger roles and it was great to see the way everyone responded tonight. This is a big win – now, we have to go out tomorrow night and get another big win against Quad City.”