Missouri Mavericks coach Richard Matvichuk is facing a dilemma any ECHL coach would relish: which goaltender to start in the first game of the Kelly Cup Playoffs, which begin at 7:05 p.m. Saturday at the Silverstein Eye Centers Arena against the Quad City Mallards.
Does he put ECHL-record holder Josh Robinson between the pipes or Parker Milner, who might have a bit of an added incentive as he was a member of the Mallards last season?
“We have two great goalies and one of them will be in the net Saturday,” said Matvichuk, who was named the ECHL Coach of the Year on Tuesday. “We are lucky to have two No. 1 goalies and I’ll be honest with you, we haven’t made the decision.
“Both guys have played so well that each one deserves the chance to start. I’m seriously thinking about flip flopping them and using them both in every series, but we’ll wait to see on that. It’s a great problem to have – one I know a lot of coaches would like, for sure.”
Robinson is the starting goalie on the All-ECHL first team. He finished the season with a 28-2-0-1 record and won a single-season record 21 games in a row. He finished the season with a league-best 1.88 goals against average and .931 save percentage. He tied Fort Wayne’s Pat Nagle for the most wins, but Nagle played in 17 more games than Robinson.
Robinson also spent time in the AHL with the Springfield Falcons where he was 0-3 with a 5.40 goals against average.
Milner finished the season with a 17-7-1 record and 2.17 goals against average. Like Robinson, he too spent some time in the AHL. He was 2-3 with a 3.05 goals against average with the Mavericks’ AHL affiliate Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
“I’m excited for the playoffs to start – we’re all excited,” said Robinson, who was in the net last Sunday when the Mavericks ended a four-game losing streak with a 3-1 victory over the Idaho Steelheads in Boise. “Any player’s dream in this league is to make it to the next level. That’s my dream, my goal, but this is the only team I would ever want to play for in the ECHL. The Mavericks did a great job in the offseason building a team that not only challenged for a championship, we finished with the best record in the league and now have home ice throughout the playoffs and that’s huge.
“We all hope the first round goes four games and we win it next week in Quad City, but if it goes six or seven games, we want those games back in this arena in front of our fans.”
Like Robinson, Milner recently returned to the 52-15-3-2 Mavericks from his AHL stint and he can’t wait to face his former team.
“We don’t know what Coach has planned, but if I’m called on to play, I’ll be ready,” Milner said. “There is always an added incentive when you play your former team. I can’t wait for the playoffs. We’ve had a great week of practice and there is a quiet confidence that shows me we’re ready to go.”
The No. 1 seeded Mavericks were 5-0 against No. 8 Quad City (37-29-4-2) during the regular season, but Robinson said that doesn’t mean a thing.
“That was the regular season,” Robinson said, “and this is the playoffs. Every team’s record is 0-0, and I know they’re excited to be in the playoffs and so are we. It should be a great series.”