Names like Dax Lauwrence, Danick Pauquette, Rocco Cerzo and Tristan King might not mean much to Missouri Mavericks fans in the month of July, but once the team’s second season in the ECHL rolls around in mid-October, coach Richard Matvichuk is hoping the newest signees become heart-and-soul players for his team.
“That’s the plan,” said Matvichuk, who recently returned to Independence after spending eight days at the New York Islanders rookie camp. “We like who we’re signing, but you never know what to expect until you get out on the ice.
“And that can’t come soon enough for me.”
As a first-year coach, Matvichuk watched his team struggle in its first year in the ECHL. The Mavericks failed to make the playoffs for the first time in team history, and it was apparent that there would be changes.
“We’re doing our due diligence this offseason,” Matvichuk said. “We’re going to be younger, bigger and stronger. Are we going to be better? We better be, and I think we will.
“And even though we lost some of the veteran guys on the team (like captain Sebastien Thinel, who is playing in France, and associate captain Matt Stephenson, who retired), I think we’re going to have some strong leadership from Andrew Courtney.”
Courtney set the team single-season goals mark the past two seasons and is excited about the upcoming campaign.
“I was a kid when I got here and looked up to guys like Sebbie and Colt King and Jards (Ryan Jardine),” Courtney said. “And now, it’s time for me to step up and be a leader on the ice and in the clubhouse. I’m looking forward to it, but what I’m really looking forward to is getting back out on the ice and giving our fans something to cheer about.”
Among all the new faces is a familiar one as the team signed goaltender Josh Robinson, who joined the team after the season started and was injured most of the remainder.
“Josh played over in Europe last year and things didn’t go like he’d hoped,” the coach said, “then he came here and got hurt. He is a quality goalie and quality young man who is going to make a mark with the team on the ice and in the community.
“We’re really excited to have Josh back this season.”
Matvichuk said the Islanders or their AA affiliate in Bridgeport, Conn., would likely supply the second goalie.
“It was an eye-opening experience being at the Islanders rookie camp with Simon (Watson, assistant coach),” Matvichuk said. “We soaked it in like a couple of sponges. Right now, we have a giant puzzle and we’re beginning to fill in all the pieces.
“We’ve got a ways to go, but we’re getting there. We’re getting closer every day.”