Seven minutes into their final meeting with the Quad City Mallards Sunday, Kansas City Mavericks captain Tyler Elbrecht had his stick swatted out of his hands as a Mallards player was about to take a shot on goal against goaltender Adam Carlson.
With a sold-out Sunday matinee crowd looking on, Elbrecht hit the ice and slid face first toward the Quad City player, blocking his path to the goal.
With a stunned look on his face, the Mallard passed the puck to a teammate.
“When you see your captain do something like that early in a game, you know you’d better come to play,” said Mavericks forward Shawn Pauly, whose two-goal performance played a big role in Kansas City’s 8-0 victory over the wounded Mallards. “Come on, a puck to the face could only improve Tyler’s ruggedly handsome looks – but that play set the tone for the rest of the game. When he did that, I knew we were going to win the game.”
Carlson, who recorded his first shutout since Nov. 11, 2016, agreed.
“I hated to see the best looking guy on the team go head first into a player shooting the puck,” said Carlson, as Elbrecht grinned, and nodded in his direction, “but that’s what captains do for their teams. This game had a playoff atmosphere. It was another one of those late-season, must-win games and we went out and got it done.
“When you score eight goals, it’s easy to overlook what the defense did today, but we had guys blocking shots the entire game. And I think Tyler kind of inspired all of us with that play early in the game.”
With the win, the 31-28-2-2 Mavericks slid back into a Central Division fourth-place tie with the Kalamazoo Wings (30-26-4-2). If the season ended today, the Mavericks would own the final playoff spot from the division by the tiebreaker of the most regular-season wins.
“A great atmosphere today,” said Pauly, who now has 20 goals in his second season of professional hockey. “When we came out of the tunnel and saw the stands full, Tyler turned to me and said, ‘What a crowd!’ It’s Sunday, an afternoon game and we have 5,800 people in the barn. God bless you Orange Army!”
Elbrecht said the team was inspired by the support.
“We have the best fans in the ECHL,” Elbrecht said. “We didn’t know how many fans would come out on a Sunday, and we skate out on the ice and it’s full! That inspired us to give them something to remember. Now, I’m not saying we’re going to score eight goals every time the barn is full, but we’d like to because of all the great fan support we get.”
The Mavericks blew the Mallards off the ice early, with Jared VanWormer scoring on a power-play goal at the 10:56 mark, just more than a minute after Elbrecht’s defensive gem. Corey Durocher and Jordan Kwas followed with goals in a span of 1:28 to make it 3-0 going into the second period.
Matt Robertson scored his 19th goal at the 6:54 mark of the second before Pauly added his 19th and 20th goals. Mark Cooper added a goal at the 15:44 mark to make it 7-0 going into the final period.
“We’re not a skilled team, but we’re a blue collar team that can grab our lunch pails and go to work and win a game like this,” Mavericks coach John-Scott Dickson said. “Elbrecht set the defensive tone early and Carlson made some big saves early on, when it was still a game.
“Pauly has really come on and become a force on the team. When he gets fired up, he can score some greasy goals around the net and that’s what he did tonight – nothing pretty, but they all count.”
Patch Alber punctuated the win with his fifth goal of the season at 7:29 of the final period.
The eight goals were a season-high, and the most since Nov. 5, 2016 when Kansas City topped Tulsa 10-3.
Pauly is the team's first 20-goal scorer this season, and VanWormer (1 goal, 2 assists), Durocher (1 goal, 2 assists) and Greg Betzold (3 assists) all had three points in the game.
Carlson (5-3-0-0) was perfect on the day, turning away all 22 shots faced for his first shutout of the season. The Mavericks are his fourth team this season.
“Carlson is a big reason we control our own destiny and are in the hunt for the playoffs,” Dickson said.
The Mavericks started the year slow at home, at one point going 4-8-0-1 at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena, but they are now 16-15-0-2 at home and have won five of the last six on home ice.
In that span, the Mavericks have claimed weekend sweeps over Allen and Fort Wayne and will look for their fourth-straight home win on Tuesday when they return to action at 7:05 p.m. against the rival Wichita Thunder.
LAME DUCKS: The Mallards (20-40-3-1) truly are lame ducks. They are out of playoff contention and the longtime rival of the Mavericks will cease operations at the end of the season. The Mavericks honored the Mallards Sunday, a team they have played against dating back to the days of the Central Hockey League.
SATURDAY’S GAME POSTPONED: Because of bus troubles, the Tulsa Oilers did not show up for Saturday’s sold-out Fan Appreciation Night at SEC Arena. The game has been rescheduled for Monday, April 2.
McDONALD RETURNS: Goalie Mason McDonald was reassigned to the Mavericks from the American Hockey League’s Stockton Heat on Monday.
McDonald, 21, the second-round pick of the Flames in the 2014 NHL Draft, has a 10-12-0-1 record and 3.22 goals-against average with the Mavericks.
McDonald was reassigned to Stockton on Feb. 12 and won his first three games with a 3.48 goals against average. With his arrival, the Mavericks now have four goaltenders – McDonald, Tyler Parsons, Mavric Parks and Carlson.