It was a bittersweet going away party for the Kansas City Mavericks and their fans Tuesday night at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena as more than 1,000 fans met the players for a photo and autograph session following the second season in a row where the team failed to make the playoffs.
“It’s bittersweet, that’s for sure,” team captain Tyler Elbrecht said, “but it’s great to say goodbye to our fans, where right there with us all season.”We have the best fans in the ECHL.”
That statement was backed by forward Shawn Pauly, one of the breakout young stars on this year’s team.
“We wanted to reward our fans with a spot in the playoffs and a championship,” Pauly said, “and that didn’t happen, so we’re all going to be chomping at the bit during the offseason, waiting for next season to get here. All I cared about this season was helping this team reach the playoffs, and we didn’t get that done, so I hope I’m back next season to make it happen.”
Longtime Mavericks fan Frank Spevak, who helps the team pack for each road trip and greets the bus when it returns from road games, was on hand collecting autographs and phone numbers.
“I like to keep in touch with the boys in the offseason,” said Spevak, whose home is often a gathering place for player during the season. “I don’t know as many of the boys as I did back in the old CHL days, but the boys I know are great. We have some great young men on this team and we all hope they’re back.”
So do Ron and Molly Clemons, who have been season ticket holders for nine seasons.
“A night like this is nice so we get to meet the players and actually see their faces and see them without the helmet and all their gear,” Ron Clemons said. “We have season tickets up in the loge and you can’t really see the players up close, so a night like this – even though it is bittersweet – is great for the fans.”
Added Molly, “We’d have loved for the team to make the playoffs so they would still be playing, but even though they didn’t make the playoffs there were some memorable games – like the night of the goalies’ fight (with Mason McDonald).”
Cooper MVP: Mark Cooper finished the season as the team’s leading scorer after he was voted Team MVP by his teammates – announced at the team’s annual awards gala on March 31. Cooper posted a career-best 47 points on 23 goals and 24 assists, following up a 42-point outburst in his rookie season with the Rapid City Rush.
VanWormer Lights It Up: Jared VanWormer completed his rookie season as the ECHL’s leading scorer in power play goals, finishing with 14. The ECHL’s top threat on the man-advantage closed out the season with 15 points (8 goals, 7 assists) over the last 12 games of the year. The turning point in his season came with the addition of Corey Durocher to create the second line of Durocher-Cooper-VanWormer on Feb. 16 as he totaled 24 points (13 goals, 11 assists) starting in the Feb. 16 game against Indy.
Pauly’s Breakout Season: Pauly had a breakout season with 41 points on 24 goals and 17 assists. The Bellingham, Wash., native claimed two hat tricks on the year, one in November and one in March, and also scored the Mavs’ lone penalty shot of the season. The second-year pro scored just 14 points last season.
Heat Check: The first year of the Mavericks’ affiliation with the Calgary Flames and Stockton Heat started promisingly with six players on AHL deals joining the Mavericks – a pair of goalies in Tyler Parsons and Mason McDonald, some offensive firepower in Mike McMurtry, Darren Nowick and Hunter Smith and defenseman Kayle Doetzel. Unfortunately, injuries throughout the Calgary organization forced heavy departures out of Kansas City with McMurtry leaving after 30 games and Nowick after 22. Parsons and McDonald racked up frequent flyer miles throughout the campaign.
Injury Bug Hit Hard: The Mavericks lost some key pieces to injuries this year, including alternate captain Rocco Carzo going out for the season after just 12 games. Elbrecht was the only player to appear in all 72 games, while Hunter Smith (35 games), Justin Breton (37 games), Matt Robertson (41 games) and Troy Donnay (49 games) all missed extended time due to injuries.
Rotating Door in Goal: The Mavericks saw a franchise-record six goalies play in the 2017-18 season, the product of call-ups and injuries. In total, the Mavs played four affiliated goalies with two coming from Calgary (Parsons and McDonald), one from the New York Rangers (Chris Nell) and one from the Washington Capitals (Adam Carlson). Additionally, KC played two from the SPHL in Kent Patterson and Mavric Parks, who won ECHL Goalie of the Week on Feb. 27.