A near perfect weekend helped the Kansas City Mavericks wrap up a 3-0 homestand with two convincing wins over Central Division rivals Kalamazoo and Quad City.
Following a dominating 4-2 win over Kalamazoo Friday night, the Mavericks turned up the heat on the Mallards and earned a 5-2 victory that saw Mark Cooper enjoy a two-goal night, Mason McDonald once again star in the net and the Mavericks dominate all phases of the game.
“After we won Friday, I told the guys we needed to play like that Saturday, and we didn’t quite get 60 minutes of hockey like we did last night, but it was close,” Mavericks coach John-Scott Dickson said. “We’re ahead of Kalamazoo and Quad City in the standings, and those are the teams we need to beat.
“Now, we go on the road and play two teams that are ahead of us in the standings, and we could use two big road wins this weekend.”
The 3-0 homestand helped the Mavericks improve to 20-16-0-1 on the season. They now have 41 points, good for fourth place in the ECHL’s Central Division.
They play at Cincinnati (43 points, third place) Friday and Toledo (45, first place) Saturday. The Mavericks are just four points out of first place in the division, and six points ahead of fifth-place Kalamazoo (35). The top four teams from each division advance to postseason play.
“We needed all three wins, but we especially needed the two wins this weekend,” Cooper said Saturday night, after nearly identical power-play goals at the 2:09 and 6:10 marks of the second period gave Kansas City a 2-0 lead. “We’re playing our best hockey of the season right now, and we have to keep playing this way the rest of the season if we want to make the playoffs.”
For the second night in a row, McDonald starred in the net. After taking over the No. 1 goalkeeper role, when Tyler Parsons was called up to the American Hockey League’s Stockton Heat, McDonald is 2-0 and full of confidence.
“It was great getting the 2-0 lead in the second period,” said McDonald, who stopped 24 of 26 shots. “I think everyone, not just me, plays with a bit more confidence when you’re playing with a lead. And we have such great fans, and taking that lead helps them get into the game.”
After Ryan McGrath scored for the Mallards at the 15:57 mark of the second period, Kansas City took a 2-1 lead into the third when Shawn Pauly scored on a dazzling penalty shot while the Mavericks were shorthanded.
Quad City added a quick second goal from Greg Amlong, but Matt Robertson went coast to coast, making a nifty move to beat Quad City goalie Matt O’Connor to make it 4-2 at the 14:40 mark.
Greg Betzold added a late goal on assists from Jordan Kwas and Eric Freschi to account for the final score.
“Our special teams play was outstanding, we scored some greasy goals and played well defensively,” Dickson said. “And Mase (McDonald) has taken his game to a new level. That often happens when you know you’re the No. 1 guy, and he’s certainly that for our team now.”
McDonald has won his last five starts. Since taking over the lead role after Parsons’ injury and ensuing call-up to Stockton, McDonald has allowed only 28 goals on 284 shots faced for a .910 save percentage and has gone 6-3-0-1. McDonald has earned second star of the game honors in each of the last two games.
DOETZEL RETURNS: Defenseman Kayle Doetzel has been reassigned by Stockton and will rejoin the Mavericks, the team announced Monday.
Doetzel, 22, had played in 23 games with the Mavericks, totaling two goals and six assists with six penalty minutes before being recalled by the Heat on Dec. 11.
The 6-foot-2, 194-pound defenseman played in three games with the Heat while supplying blue line depth for the AHL team.
Doetzel was signed by the Heat prior to the 2016-17 season and appeared in 56 games during his rookie campaign.