As if making the 2019 Kelly Cup Playoffs for the first time since the 2015-2016 campaign wasn’t enough, Kansas City Mavericks coach John-Scott Dickson received more good news over the weekend.
He found out forward Mark Cooper and defenseman Cliff Watson were returning to the team in time for their opening round ECHL playoff series in Tulsa, that begins at 7:05 p.m. Thursday.
Cooper, who has been on loan to American Hockey League team San Antonio, and Watson, who has been on loan to the Ontario Reign, were both headed back to Independence when Dickson talked about postseason play following Monday’s practice at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena.
“They’re both on planes as we speak and should be here for practice tomorrow,” said Dickson, whose Mavericks claimed points in their last five ECHL regular season games – winning four in a row and falling 2-1 at Rapid City Saturday in overtime.
“The guys are excited about the playoffs and everyone is excited to get Coop and Wattie back. Neither of their AHL teams made the playoffs, so they’re both going to be coming back to hopefully help us make a deep playoff run.”
The Mavericks finished the regular season with a 36-30-4-2 record and finished in fourth place in the Mountain Division.
This will be the first time the Mavericks and Oilers have met in postseason play. The Mavericks were 4-6 against Tulsa this past season, sporing a 4-3 record at home and 0-3 mark in Tulsa.
“When we were on that 0-7 streak, I told you after many of the games that we were playing pretty well, but just couldn’t find a way to get the puck in the net, or we’d make a mistake that would cost us a game,” said Dickson, who is taking the Mavericks into the postseason for the first time as a head coach.
“But then we won four in a row and really played well. We found a way to score, we played some great defense and throughout the bad times, the guys bonded together and there was no finger pointing or guys playing the blame game.”
And that led the Mavericks winning four out of their last five regular season games.
“We have a lot of confidence heading into the playoffs and we’re hoping to get a win or two in Tulsa and then come back here and get some energy from our fans. I know they’re going to be as excited as we are that we’re back in the playoffs.”
Mason McDonald, who has been a brick wall in the net for the Mavericks this season, takes a personal 23-10-1-2 record and 2.54 goals against average in the playoffs against the Oilers.
“We’re all excited to be heading into the playoffs after missing them the past couple of years,” McDonald said. “I think we’re playing with a lot of confidence, and even though we didn’t win our last regular season game, we got points in our last five games with four wins and that shootout loss at Rapid City (with Nick Schneider in the net).
“We’ve had some real battles against Tulsa this season and there is going to be a lot of hitting, body contact and some possible rumbles out on the ice and we’re ready for that.”
Captain Rocco Carzo, who along with defenseman Nate Widman, played in all 72 regular-season games for the Mavericks, can’t wait for postseason action.
“That losing streak at the end of the season can help us, because we won four in a row after that and got points in our last five games,” said Carzo, who led the team with 59 points (20 goals, 39 assists).
“If we get down against Tulsa, and we’re going to do everything we can to make sure that doesn’t happen. We can draw on the fact that we lost seven in a row and regrouped and won four in a row at the end. And we can use that as momentum heading into the playoffs.”
LONGTIME RIVALRY: The Mavericks and Oilers have played never played each other in the postseason despite playing each other 97 times in their 10-year rivalry. The Mavericks have a stranglehold on the all-time series with a 64-27-2-4 record against the Oilers. The team’s 100th all-time meeting will be Game 3 at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena on April 17.
TAKING IT BACK: The Mavericks are making their seventh postseason appearance in franchise history. In their 10-year history, the Mavericks have a 27-26-2 record all-time in the postseason and a 4-5 series record. They have reached the conference finals twice in their history, once against the Fort Wayne Komets in the 2012 CHL Playoffs and again in 2013 against the Allen Americans, losing in the seventh game of the series both times.