Missouri Mavericks coach Richard Matvichuk has known Trevor Ludwig since the days he was a youngster, roaming around the locker room of the Stanley Cup champion Minnesota North Stars.
Ludwig’s father Craig, a North Stars icon, became young Matvichuk’s mentor, and when twins Trevor and Tyler began joining their father in the locker room, they thought of Matvichuk as an older brother.
“I think we were closer in age to Matti than he was to my father,” said Ludwig, the Mavericks’ team captain. “My dad took Matti under his wing and Matti did the same for me and Tyler. We always thought of Matti as a member of the family, and it was great working with him two years in Allen.”
Before Matvichuk became the second head coach in Mavericks history last season, he was an assistant coach on an Allen Americans team that won back-to-back Central Hockey League titles. Last year, the Americans stunned the ECHL by winning a championship as a first-year member of the bigger, faster, stronger league.
While the Americans thrived, the Mavericks struggled, winning just 28 games and failing to make the playoffs for the first time in team history.
That’s when Matvichuk went after Ludwig, a player he called “a difference maker.”
Now, Ludwig is a heart-and-soul player who was instrumental in the team’s turnaround as the Mavericks led the ECHL with 109 points and gained home-ice advantage throughout the Kelly Cup Playoffs, which begin tonight at 7:05 at the Silverstein Eye Centers Arena against the No. 8 seed, the Quad City Mallards.
“Trevor is an incredible young man, an incredible player and an incredible leader,” Matvichuk said. “Look at what he meant to the Americans on their three championship teams. And now, he’s providing the same leadership for us. When we were in Alaska (for a preseason series with the Anchorage Aces that led to a season-opening three game series with the host team) we had a vote and it was unanimous. Trevor was our team captain. He is a born leader and he has meant a lot to this team this year.”
Ludwig admits he was a bit surprised at first to learn that he had been traded from his longtime team to Missouri, but he is now thrilled with the move.
“I called Allen home for a long time,” Ludwig said. “I have a lot of great memories there, but I see a lot of the same characteristics in this locker room that I saw in the three championship American locker rooms. We have a great coach with Matti, great assistants and a great blend of young and new talent. This team has so much talent – I think we can make a real impact in the postseason.”
When asked if Allen had a recipe for success, Ludwig chuckled.
“If they did, I’ve have brought it with me,” he said. “For this team to win a championship we need to work hard – and this team has worked hard all season. We need to play to Matti’s system, and we’ve done that, and we have to be strong mentally and physically.
“We can’t go into the first round against Quad City and think we’re going to automatically win because they are an eight seed and we’re a one seed. If we do that, we’re in trouble. We respect Quad City and know we’re going to have to play our best hockey to get past the first round. And we have to take each game one at a time.
“If we win, great. If we lose, we have to forget that loss and go out the next game with a lot of confidence, and play up to our ability. If we do that, we should be fine.”
MVP NAMED: The ECHL announced Friday that Chad Costello of the Allen Americans has been selected as the CCM Hockey ECHL Most Valuable Player for 2015-16.
Josh Robinson of Missouri finished second, followed by Missouri’s Jesse Root.
Costello, who was named to the All-ECHL first team last week, led the league in scoring for the second consecutive season with 103 (24 goals, 79 assists) in 72 games.
Robinson, who was named the ECHL Goaltender of the Year earlier this week, was 28-2-0-1 with an ECHL-best 1.88 goals-against average and league-best .931 save percentage in 32 games.
Root was one of leading scorers the ECHL when he was injured by a slew foot incident with Allen on March 9. He finished with 59 points (26 goals, 33 assists) and a plus-34 rating in 50 games.
Both Mavericks also spent time with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the American Hockey League.