Matt Robertson’s first-career hat trick lifted the Kansas City Mavericks to a 6-3 must-win victory over Tulsa Monday night at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena, setting the stage for yet another must-win contest tonight at home against the Indy Fuel.
Coach John-Scott Dickson’s squad is making a last-ditch run for the playoffs. With the win Monday, the 34-30-3-2 Mavericks have 73 points in the Central Division. Indy has a game in hand on the Mavericks and also has 73 points. Fourth-place Kalamazoo has 74 points. While the Mavericks no longer control their own destiny, they can continue their playoff plight with a win tonight against Indy.
“We had to win tonight,” said Robertson, whose first career hat trick was supported by three points from Mark Cooper (2 goals, 1 assist) and Jared VanWormer (1 goal, 2 assists). “We got off to a great start, and then kind of let Tulsa back in the game in the second period.
“We regrouped between the second and third periods and got the big win. We all knew if we didn’t win tonight, it’s all pretty much over as far as the playoffs are concerned, so we did our best to come out hot – and we were able to do it.”
Robertson scored two first-period goals and VanWormer added a goal to make it 3-0 after the first 20 minutes play.
Cooper then scored two quick goals in the second period to make it 5-0 and the fans started chanting “we want burgers,” as any game the Mavericks score six goals, all fans are rewarded with a free hamburger from a local chain.
But when Roman Ammirato scored back-to-back goals for Tulsa to make it a 5-2 game going into the third period, fans were happy to settle for a win. “I blew up between the second and third period,” said Dickson, who signed a two-year contract extension over the weekend. “We’re up 5-0 and we let them back in the game by not doing the little things that helped us get the lead in the first place. We had to win the game, and to win it, we had to win every shift.
“We did that until the midway point of the second period and the start of the third period. It was like watching a different team until Robertson got his third goal, and we got that 6-3 lead (at 10:32 of the third period). After Robertson’s goal, we got back to playing the type of hockey that helped us beat a very good offensive team.”
Robertson is just the second Maverick to produce a hat trick this season. Shawn Pauly had two hat tricks this season before Robertson’s big night.
“We knew what we had to do and we did it,” Robertson said. “When it was 5-3 early in the third period, the Oilers were like sharks smelling the blood in the water. We had to regroup. We paid attention to Coach, regrouped and got it done.”
VanWormer, who dove in front of an Oilers’ shot late in the game and took the puck off his side, scored his ECHL-best 14th power play goal of the season to make it 3-0 in the first period.
“Worms (VanWormer) is a leader, a heart-and-soul player who has become one of the most important guys on our roster – not just for scoring, but for doing what he did late in the game blocking that shot,” Dickson said. “Those are the types of plays that help you get in the playoffs.”
VanWormer, who is battling a sore throat, said the blocked shot was equally important personally to his three points.
“I like blocking shots – it hurts, but I like it,” VanWormer said, barely getting the words out because of his scratchy throat. “This was a big win, a must win, and we found a way to win it. Now, we have to do it again tomorrow. They handed it to us when we played Indy up there (a 6-3 loss), but this game is on our ice, and I know our fans are going to come out and support us. We’re looking for a different outcome.”
Mason McDonald, who has been with the team’s AHL affiliate Stockton, was in the net against the Oilers and stopped 20 of 23 shots.
“It’s been a while since I’ve played, and it was great getting that early lead,” McDonald said. “We had that lapse in the second period and they came back and made a game out of it, but we won. And that’s all that matters right now.”
Tonight’s 7:05 p.m. contest is the regular-season finale for the Mavericks.