The most important eight-game stretch of the season lies ahead for the Kansas City Mavericks.

Following an the ECHL All-Star break, they are preparing to resume a nine-game homestand with 7:05 p.m. games Friday and Saturday night against the Utah Grizzlies at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena.

The Mavericks started the homestand last Saturday with a crushing 6-5 overtime loss to the Wichita Thunder. That leaves the Mavericks with a 19-16-2-1 overall record and 41 points – good for fifth place in the Mountain Division.

The Thunder have 42 points and own the fourth – and final – playoff spot at the moment.

Utah is 23-12-3-1 and in third place, with 50 points.

During the All-Star break, the Mavericks enjoyed a brief respite, as forward Jared VanWormer represented his team in Toledo, Ohio, with a monster performance.

VanWormer scored three goals and tallied an assist for the ECHL Western Conference team in the ECHL All Star Tournament Monday night at the Huntington Center in Toledo.

“We’re all proud of Worms making it to the All-Star Game,” Mavericks coach John-Scott Dickson said before a rare Wednesday afternoon practice session, to accommodate all of his players who returned to Independence following the All-Star break. “He did a great job and really represented this organization well. Now, it’s time to get back to work and find a way to get four points this weekend against Utah.”

VanWormer also participated in the hardest shot competition for the Western Conference. He came in fourth place, with two shots registering 86 and 89 miles per hour.

The Eastern Conference team ended up winning the All-Star tournament, with a 2-1 shootout win over the hosting Toledo Walleye’s Team Fins.

VanWormer has scored 14 goals and stacked up 16 assists for 30 points in 31 games this season. VanWormer is in his third season with the Mavericks. The all-star forward was recently returned to the Mavs by the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League after a four-game PTO stint.

“It was great representing the Mavericks at the All-Star game,” VanWormer said before hitting the ice Wednesday. “It was fun to look at the lockers, check out the names of the guys you play against, and find out what they are like off the ice.

“I really enjoyed that aspect of the game. Now, it’s time to get back to work. We have to win a lot of our home games on this stretch because we have struggled on the road.

“Utah is ahead of us in the standings, so we need to get some points this weekend.”