Going against a last-place team like the Rapid City Rush seemed like a game that the Kansas City Mavericks desperately needed to get back into the playoff race, especially with just 17 games left in the season.
They had a chance to pull within two points of fourth-place Kalamazoo in the Central Division, but the Mavericks stumbled in the first period, and fell 2-1 Tuesday at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena.
Kansas City now sits in sixth place, three points behind Kalamazoo and one point behind the fifth-place Indy Fuel. Although the Mavericks are still in the playoff hunt, head coach John-Scott Dickson said some trades could be possible before the March 8 deadline.
“Everyone is available,” Dickson said.
The first period is what did the Mavericks in as they got out hustled and outplayed in the first 20 minutes. The Rush held a 11-8 shots advantage and converted on two of their shots. Both of their points came off turnovers as Matt Caito received a pass from Jack Walker, and during a power play, he slapped shot off the leg pads of Mavericks goaltender Mavric Parks and it deflected into the goal to give Rapid City a 1-0 lead at the 12:19 mark.
With 11 seconds left in the period, Rapid City’s Kenton Miller scored off a Kansas City turnover when he received a crossing pass from Shaquille Merasty and put in a rebound to give his team a 2-0 edge.
Dickson, to say the least, was not pleased with that period.
“It was just veteran guys making mistakes,” he said. “It’s almost March and if guys want to keep doing the same thing, we’ll get the result that we got.
“We were not mentally ready to go from the start. We had a guy behind the net with (Troy) Donnay and he goes and chases and leaves his guy early on in the period. We also had a pass across the ice and Donnay is sitting on the wall not moving his feet back knowing he has to come back in case there is something that happens. And he got beat and their guy scores the rebound goal. We just have guys who shouldn’t be making those mistakes, It’s almost March. That is ridiculous.”
The Mavericks, who didn’t get it into the offensive zone much in the first, got many more opportunities in the second and third and played much better overall. However, their only goal involved a little bit of luck in the second period. Defenseman Tyler Elbrect flung a long shot from the red line that slid between the legs from goaltender Adam Vay to cut it to one.
But Vay was solid the rest of the night as he stopped 27 of the Mavericks’ 28 shots, including some crucial shots late to keep Kansas City from tying it.
Parks, who was named ECHL Goaltender of the Week after a pair of wins and a shutout against the Allen Americans last weekend, had another solid game as he stopped 22 of 24 shots.
“He’s played well,” Dickson said. “He got beat on a rebound today, but he still played well.”