Missouri Mavericks coach Richard Matvichuk is the ECHL’s John Brophy Award winner, signifying the league’s Coach of the Year.
After a 28-35-5-4 campaign in 2014-15, Missouri’s first season in the league, Matvichuk led Missouri to a 52-15-3-2 mark this year, which topped the ECHL with 109 points.
Missouri improved by 44 points over last season, tying the eighth-best single-season point increase in league history. The Mavericks won 29 home games this season, tying the ECHL mark for the second-most home wins in a single season.
“We weren’t going to go through another season like last year, because Brent and (team owner) Lamar (Hunt) worked tirelessly in the offseason to put the absolute best team on the ice you could imagine this season,” said Matvichuk, as he watched video of the Quad City Mallards in his office in preparation for this weekend’s opening playoff series.
The John Brophy Award is the trophy presented annually to the ECHL coach selected to have contributed the most to his team’s success as selected in a vote of league coaches. The trophy is named for the man who won a record three ECHL titles with Hampton Roads in 1991, 1992 and 1998, and was inducted into the ECHL Hall of Fame in 2009.
Spencer Carbery of South Carolina finished second in the voting, followed by Toledo’s Derek Lalonde, Richard Seeley of Manchester and Idaho’s Neil Graham.
Matvichuk was named just the second coach in team history on June 12, 2014 after previously working with the Allen Americans of the Central Hockey League for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons. He was the defensive coach and assistant general manager, and the Americans won back-to-back CHL titles.
He signed with the Mavericks and put together what he and general manager Brent Thiessen believed would be a team that could contend for a CHL title, but the league folded and the Mavericks were a late entry into the ECHL. Missouri struggled and failed to make the playoffs for the first time in team history.
This year the Mavericks turned it around and head into Saturday’s playoff as the league’s top seed. Quad City will be Missouri’s opponent in the first round of the playoffs, which begin at 7:05 p.m. Saturday at the Silverstein Eye Centers Arena.
“The best thing about an honor like this is that I can thank the people who really made it possible – our players, Brent, Lamar, Wattie (associate coach Simon Watson), JSD (assistant coach John-Scott Dickson), Drew (equipment manager Andrew Dvorak), Nick (Potter, trainer), Mike (Kempkes, strength and conditioning coach) and everyone in the front office.
“And the affiliation with the (NHL’s New York) Islanders and (AHL’s Bridgeport) Sound Tigers has been huge. This isn’t a one-man show by any means. We’re a team, and it takes a team to win an honor like this.”
Thissen grinned when told about Matvichuk’s response to the league’s top coaching honor.
“Mattie told me the same thing,” said Thiessen, who along with Matvichuk and Hunt built a team that ran away from the opposition all season. “He isn’t going to say a thing about his contributions. He’s just going to say how much everyone else did, but no one worked harder than Mattie.
“It wasn’t a fun offseason because none of us had experienced a season like the one we went through last year. It’s just awesome for him to win this award. He was selfless in the offseason, working so hard to build a championship-caliber team and we’re all very proud of him.”
So is veteran forward Andrew Courtney, who was a part of last year’s team.
“From last year, to this year, there has been a huge turnaround and Mattie is a big part of that,” Courtney said. “The affiliation has been big, because we have so much talent on our roster, but Mattie demanded a lot from himself and a lot from his players. He held us all accountable, kept us honest, and worked as hard as any coach I’ve ever been around.”
Matvichuk had a successful 14-year career in the NHL. He was drafted eighth overall in the 1991 NHL draft by the Minnesota North Stars. He went on to play 11 seasons for the Dallas Stars, winning the Stanley Cup in 1999, before moving on to play for the New Jersey Devils the final two seasons of his career (2005-2007).
The winner of the ECHL Defenseman of the Year award will be announced on Wednesday.
PLAYOFF ROSTER SET: The Mavericks announced their playoff roster Tuesday. It includes forwards Tyler Barnes, Scott Howes, Rocco Carzo, David de Kastrozza, Carter Verhaeghe, Josh Holmstrom, Andrew Courtney, Darian Dziurzynski, Darren Nowick, Reed Seckel and Sebastien Sylvestre. Defensemen are Bryce Aneloski, Jesse Graham, Chris Owens, Trevor Ludwig, C.J. Ludwig, Zach Tolkinen and Travis Walsh. The goaltenders Josh Robinson and Parker Milner.
“We’re happy with the roster,” Matvichuk said, “but it’s so tough to tell a great kid like Garrett Ladd and a goalie like Steven Summerhays that they didn’t make it. It’s a numbers game, and that’s the downside of this time of year. But we’re excited to get the playoffs started this Saturday at home.”