When Nate Widman scored the fourth goal of the night on a sold-out New Year's Eve contest at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena between the Kansas City Mavericks and Wichita Thunder, he didn't pay much attention to the goal.
"I actually thought I wish it would have been a more meaningful goal," said Widman, not knowing that it would be as big as any goal scored in the Mavericks' 5-4 overtime win over the Thunder. "I guess it just goes to show how big every goal is, especially when you're playing a big rival like Wichita. I score, it's 4-1 and we're like, 'Let's just win this game.' And they make the big comeback and score those two goals in the final seconds and we need to the overtime period to win the game.
"Thank goodness we won. It's a huge win, winning the last game of 2018. And it would have been a huge disappointment to lose our last game of 2018 after we led 4-1 in the second period."
Playing 3-on-3 hockey in the five-minute overtime period, captain Rocco Carzo sent the crowd of 5,800 home happy by trickling the puck past Thunder goalie Edwin Minney at the 3:02 mark.
"We had the big lead, let up and look what happened," Carzo said of the Thunder scoring a power-play goal at 1:05 of the third period and adding two goals in the closing minute of the period to send the game into overtime. "For 59 minutes, we played good hockey. This just shows that you need to play a full 60 minutes to win in this league. It's just one game, but it's huge to win in front of a big crowd like this and win the last game of 2018."
The Mavericks gave the crowd plenty to cheer about early as Greg Betzold scored at 2:29 of the first period. Betzold scored his second goal at 5:40 to give Kansas City a 2-0 lead.
With just under six minutes to go in the period, Willie Raskob laid a big hit on the Thunder's Mark MacMillan. Keoni Texeira scored in the ensuing 4-on-4 play to cut the Thunder’s deficit to 2-1 at 15:53.
Mark Cooper, who assisted on Betzold's goals, scored a goal to give Kansas City a 3-1 lead at the 7-minute mark of the second period. That set the stage of Widman's goal, which did not not seem significant at the time, but turned out to be key.
Wichita's Ralph Cuddemi scored against Nick Schneider at the 1:50 make to make it 4-2 early in the third period.
The Thunder pulled Minney with just over a minute left in regulation. A rocket from the point off the stick of Jeremy Beaudry cut the lead to 4-3 and another goal with just 45 seconds left by MacMillan tied it.
"We played good, solid, smart hockey for 59 minutes," Mavericks coach John-Scott Dickson said after his team improved to 17-11-1-1 and ended a two-game losing skid, "but that last minute wasn't pretty. We just need to play smart hockey, and we're OK, and we didn't play smart hockey the last minute. I was encouraged that we came out and played high-energy hockey in the overtime period, and the goal by Rocco was huge. We put a lot of pressure on them in the overtime period and it resulted in a big win.
"You want to win in front of a crowd like this and you want to win your last game of 2018, because it sets the stage for 2019."