The Missouri Mavericks wrapped up the ECHL regular season with the best record in the league following a 3-1 victory over the Idaho Steelheads Saturday in Boise.
The 52-15-3-2 (109 points) Mavericks own home ice throughout postseason action and are focusing all of their attention on the first round of the Kelly Cup Playoffs, which begin at 7:05 p.m. Saturday against the Quad City Mallards at the Silverstein Eye Centers Arena. Game 2 will be at 4:05 p.m. Sunday.
Chris Owens, Rocco Carzo and Sebastien Sylvestre all scored for the Mavericks, who halted a four-game losing streak.
Josh Robinson, who rejoined the team after a brief stint with Stockton of the American Hockey League, stopped 36 of 37 shots and especially stood out during a two-minute stretch where the Steelheads had a two-man advantage in the third period.
For Owens and associate captain Andrew Courtney, the end of this season had a much different feel than last year, when Missouri failed to reach the playoffs for the first time in team history.
“For sure,” said Owens, who along with Robinson and Courtney were the only Mavericks to make the 2015-16 roster following the first year in the ECHL. “Last year, we were back home watching the playoffs on TV. Now, we’re going to be a part of it. There are so many reasons we’re a better team this year. I think when you go through a losing season, like we did last year, it makes you appreciate the success this year a lot more.”
Courtney said winning the season finale was a big plus heading into the playoffs.
“We’d lost four in a row, and we hadn’t lost four in a row all season,” Courtney said. “I think it was huge to win that final game. Now, we have a lot of confidence going into the playoffs. Last year, we never came close to the playoffs and this year, we’re the No. 1 seed with home-ice throughout.”
The Mavericks could head into the playoffs missing two of their top offensive threats – forwards Tyler Barnes and Josh Holmstrom – who were called up the team’s AHL affiliate in Bridgeport.
“That’s OK,” Courtney said. “We have the guys who can fill their roles. We’re going to miss Josh and Barnesy, but that’s what this league is about. If you play well, you should be rewarded. The timing isn’t best, with the playoffs starting on Saturday, but they deserve it and we all want them to have a lot of success.”
Team captain Trevor Ludwig, who was a part of the Allen Americans’ last three championships, said the Mavericks have the perfect demeanor heading into the playoffs.
“Winning the last game was big because of the mental aspects,” Ludwig said. “We won a lot of games this year and have the top seed going into the playoffs, but we went through that losing streak late in the season and now we have a week to think about winning our last game and preparing for Quad City.
“You can tell from just being around the guys we’re ready to go, ready to win some games and bring a championship to Missouri.”
FORMER MAVERICK JOINS ISLANDERS: Ross Johnston, who played 13 games with the Mavericks earlier this season, has become the first Maverick player called up to the National Hockey League.
Johnston, who totaled four goals and added seven assists in his time with the Mavericks, was called up to the New York Islanders, the Mavericks’ NHL affiliate, on an emergency basis from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the American Hockey League over the weekend. Johnston played just more than 16 minutes for the Islanders Sunday night against the Philadelphia Flyers, wearing No. 52 in his NHL debut and taking four penalty minutes.
Johnston played for the Mavericks from Feb. 6 through Feb. 28. While playing with Bridgeport, the 6-foot-4, 225-pound winger notched another four points (one goal, three assists) through 37 games.
Johnston is the 599th player in ECHL history to go on to play in the NHL, making a rare ECHL to NHL transition in the course of one season. The Mavericks are in the first year of their formal affiliation with the Islanders and Sound Tigers.
MAVS SIGN DEFENSEMAN: The Mavericks signed defenseman Teddy Doherty to a standard player contract Saturday. The Hopkinton, Mass., native joins the Mavericks from Boston College where he served as captain of the Eagles his senior season, scoring13 goals and adding 13 assists through 40 games. Boston advanced to the NCAA Frozen Four this season but fell just short of a trip to the national championship game with a 3-2 loss to the Quinnipiac Bobcats in the semifinals.
“Doherty is a true two-way player with a good eye for the ice,” Mavericks coach Richard Matvichuk said. “He’s coming to us fresh from a great season with Boston College, and we are excited to bring him into our locker room.”