The Kansas City Mavericks know it will take a miracle to reach the playoffs this season, but that doesn’t mean the final two games in Utah Friday and Saturday hold any less importance for coach John-Scott Dickson or his team.
A 4-1 loss to the Indy Fuel Tuesday night at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena leaves the 34-31-3-2 Mavericks (73 points) in sixth in the ECHL’s Central Division.
The Fuel, who were tied with the Mavericks before the game, jumped to fourth place, 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 have a game in hand.
“The games in Utah are still very important,” Dickson said. “We’re not mathematically eliminated, and even if we were, I know the guys would be playing hard to finish the season on a positive note. If we win our last two and Kalamazoo and Indy lose their last three, well, it’s a long shot, but we’re in the playoffs.
“The loss to Indy was tough because we knew what to expect, they did just what we practiced and prepared for, then we didn’t execute it in the game. So we just have to regroup and get ready for two games this weekend in Utah.”
When asked if he anticipated any drop-off in play, team captain Tyler Elbrecht looked stunned.
“No! No, absolutely not,” Elbrecht said. “We have two games left, and from what I understand it’s going to be difficult to make the playoffs but not impossible. We are not eliminated from the playoffs. To lose our last home game, with a great crowd there to support us, that’s tough.
“But this team has so much character. We will never give up. You will never see any drop in play just because of the loss to Indy. We’re going to Utah to win two games.”
Second-year forward Shawn Pauly, who is tied with Matt Robertson with 24 goals, agreed with Elbrecht.
“We’re so disappointed with the loss to Indy, but that doesn’t mean we’re not going to play hard in Utah,” Pauly said. “This team has become more of a family over the past few weeks or months. We all care so much about each other and we’re really playing our best hockey of the season now.
“We had some stretches early on where we struggled and now, we’re paying the price. But we’ve got on common goal this weekend and that is to win two games in Utah and see what happens. We don’t control our playoff destiny, but we can control how we play – and we’re going to give it everything we have.”