The clock struck midnight on the Kansas City Mavericks Cinderella quest to the reach the playoffs after missing out on postseason play last year just 39 seconds into Tuesday night’s 4-1 loss to the Indy Fuel.
The loss leaves the 34-31-3-2 Mavericks (73 points) in sixth in the Central Division as the Fuel jumped to fourth, passing the Kalamazoo Wings by one point (75-74). The Mavericks are two points out of a playoff spot with two games remaining, but both teams they trail own the tiebreaker against Kansas City.
“We’re not mathematically eliminated I guess,” Mavericks coach John-Scott Dickson said, after watching his team skate through a lackluster first period that played a pivotal role in the disappointing regular-season home finale, “but now, we just have to regroup and get ready for two games this weekend in Utah.
Logan Nelson scored the first goal for the Fuel and everything went downhill for the Mavericks from there.
“The first goal – 39 seconds into the first period – happened because of a mental lapse. We talked about their style of play, and we had two guys basically duplicate what the other guy was doing and it left (Nelson) open and he scored. They score off the odd-man rush – we talked about it before the game – and they go out and score their first two goals off the rush.
“We didn’t have a lot of communication out there on those goals, but the rest of the night we played pretty well. But those first two goals were the game the way their goaltender was playing.”
Fuel goaltender Etienne Marcoux was nearly perfect on the night, stopping 42 of 43 shots. The lone Mavericks goal came at 14:30 of the second period when Mark Cooper found Cody Durocher on the left side and he sniped a goal past Marcoux.
“Their goalie left you thinking, ‘What do we have to do to score?’” Mavericks forward Shawn Pauly said. “We had pucks all night in the crease, but we couldn’t get a shot past him. There are some nights when you have to tip your hat to the opposing goalie, and tonight was one of those games. He was great.”
Josh Shalla’s goal at 11:59 of the first period made it a 2-0 game at the end of the first period. Nelson scored again in the second period and Ryan Rupert’s empty netter accounted for the final score.
“We have a lot of quality players, a lot of quality guys in that locker room, and even though we lost tonight, no one is going to give up,” Mavericks captain Tyler Elbrecht said. “We all knew how big this game was. Everything was on the line and we didn’t get it done.
“That first goal really hurt, and I feel like I was responsible. After that, we played all right for 59 ½ minutes, but that first goal – that’s not the start we were hoping for.”
Dickson believes his team will finish the season strong in Utah.
“If anyone feels like quitting, or if anyone would quit – and I don’t believe that will happen – they will not be a part of this team next season,” Dickson said. “There is no quit in any player in that locker room. This one hurts, but we will come back and come back strong for the last two games in Utah.”
Mavericks goaltender Mason McDonald stopped 29 of 32 shots.