Josh Robinson knew what to expect this season.
The Missouri Mavericks goalie came into this campaign as the reigning ECHL Goaltender of the Year, but goalies like Eamon McAdam, Stephon Williams and Willie Husso – each of whom are on two-way contracts – would get the most starts, with Robinson standing in the wings if he were called upon by coach John-Scott Dickson.
Husso has been recalled by the St. Louis Blues and McAdams and Williams have been called up by the New York Islanders, so as the Mavericks try to fight their way into the playoffs, Robinson is the man in the net.
He was the No. 1 star in Saturday night’s dramatic 3-2 overtime win over Wichita, in which he turned away 39 of 41 shots to help the Mavericks climb into a fourth-place tie with Alaska in the Mountain Division.
The Aces topped Rapid City 4-2 Sunday to regain fourth place with 72 points. The Mavericks have 70 and fifth-place and Utah has 69 and is in sixth. The top four teams in each division make the playoffs.
The Mavericks have seven games left on their schedule, including back-to-back games Wednesday and Thursday at Allen, where they meet their longtime rival and Mountain Division opponent in the Americans.
While Robinson starred in the net Saturday, newcomer Alex Brooks scored his second game-winning overtime goal in a week as he fired the puck past Wichita goalie Drew Owsley at 3:42 of the overtime period.
“Another big goal from Alex,” said Robinson, who improved to 13-15-4. “This was just a great team win – everyone contributed. We’re in a playoff run – it seems like every game we’ve played the past month or so has felt like a playoff game, and this was one was no different.”
When asked about being the man in the net as the Mavericks make their playoff push, Robinson simply shrugged his shoulders.
“Whatever they want or need from me, they know they can count on me,” he said. “Eamon, Ville and Stephon had the contracts with the NHL clubs – I don’t. If they’re sent down here, their teams want them to play.
“I understand that. I’m fine with that. Like I said earlier, I just want to help this team win, and if we keep playing like we have the last week or so, I like our chances.”
So does Dickson, who lavished praise on his 31-26-8 squad.
“We’ve lost some great players (who were called up to the AHL), but we can’t concern ourselves with that,” Dickson said. “We can just worry about who we have on our roster now. Robo has been Robo – I’ll go to battle with him any night of the week.
“I’ll go to battle with any guy in that locker room. They’re not making excuses about the guys who were called up – they’re excited about the last seven games. And with each win, we’re getting more confidence and improving our chances of making it into the playoffs.”
The Mavericks came out in front of an enthusiastic, sold-out crowd at the Silverstein Eye Centers Arena and laid an egg in the first period as the 18-40-6 Thunder claimed a quick 2-0 lead.
Eric Scheid, another newcomer, scored at 14:08 of the first period and the Mavericks trailed 2-1 going into the second period of action.
“Not the start we wanted,” Dickson said, “but we addressed that in the locker room and I thought we played with much more energy the rest of the game.”
Matt Finn scored at 8:06 of the second period and Robinson made enough dramatic, point-blank saves to fill a season’s worth of highlight reels to send the game into overtime.
“Anything can happen during a 3-on-3 in overtime,” said Robinson, who had one game-saving stop in the five-minute overtime period.
Brooks then took care of overtime heroics for the second time in his short Mavericks career by scoring on a slap shot that sent the crowd into a frenzy.
“Right place, right time,” quipped Brooks. “This was a great win. Robo (Robinson) was amazing in the net. We didn’t get off to a good start, but we picked things up and he kept us in the game until we could find a way to win.”
Before the game, Bob Klem hosted his sixth annual Have A Skate With Bob charity hockey game that benefits the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.
“We raised $13,797 and that total is still growing,” said Klem, who lost his wife Becky to pancreatic cancer in 2007. “We had a lot of fun playing and raised quite a bit of money. I just want to thank the Mavericks and everyone who participated.”