TULSA, Okla. – The Kansas City Mavericks picked the right time to win their first game in the BOK Center this season.
Jared VanWormer scored the late game-winner and veteran Joey Sides added a timely empty-net goal with just 52 seconds left to lead coach John-Scott Dickson’s squad to a 6-4 victory and 1-0 lead in the 2019 ECHL Kelly Cup Playoffs.
“We came here to win the first game, and we were able to accomplish that,” Dickson said by phone. “Now, we have a few days to get prepared for Sunday, which is another big game on the road.”
Veteran captain Rocco Carzo echoed Dickson’s comments.
“The first win is always huge, especially when you’re on the road,” said Carzo, who was credited on the postgame stat sheet with the empty-netter, but graciously said Sides actually scored the coast-to-coast goal. “We came here to realistically, win at least one game, and now, we have the chance to win again Sunday and come home sitting pretty.”
The Mavericks took a 4-2 lead into the third period when Tulsa’s Alex Dostie scored two quick goals – 34 seconds in and at the 5:17 mark – to knot it 4-4.
“It’s not the first time we’ve seen that – and you have to remember, this is playoff hockey and anything can happen,” Carzo added. “They’re up 2-0 and then we go up 4-2 and they come back and tie it.
“But we kept playing our game, Mase (goalie Mason McDonald, who stopped 39 of 43 shots) came up big and Worms got the game-winner.”
The No. 4-seeded Mavericks used their second power-play goal of the game to get the big win as VanWormer scored at the 16:03 mark of the third period to give Kansas City a 5-4 lead.
“Our special teams played well tonight,” Dickson said. “This is playoff hockey and all the ups and downs of a season seem to happen in the playoffs. We’re used to being down, we’re used to coming back and tying a game or taking a lead and tonight you saw all of that. And our guys found a way to win.”
Seconds after scoring the fifth goal, VanWormer dove in front of an Alex Pleschak shot in front of Mason and blocked it.
“Those plays don’t show up on the stat sheet,” Carzo said, “but that’s how you win playoff games. Worms didn’t do that for himself, he did for the entire team. Guys notice that – that’s why he’s respected by everyone on the team.”
Tulsa then pulled goalie Devin Williams with 1:19 left and 20 seconds later Sides iced the first playoff win ever under Dickson’s leadership with a coast-to-coast goal that set the stage for the 4 p.m. Sunday game at the BOK Center.
“Yeah,” laughed Carzo, “I’m not sure why they gave that goal to me. I’ll take it, but Sidesy was the one who made it!”
Tulsa took a 2-0 lead in the first period as Roman Amirrato and Stephen Perfecto gave the top seed some breathing room.
But Greg Betzold, the reigning ECHL Player of the Month, scored with 3:35 left in the period to make it 2-1.
The Mavericks then dominated the second as Loren Ulett opened the three-goal period with a goal at 6:41 to tie it. Corey Durocher, who scored two goals against the Oilers in a 4-3 regular-season win last week at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena, put the Mavericks ahead 3-2 at 11:54.
C.J. Eick then gave the Mavericks a boost with his first goal of the playoffs with just 19 seconds left in the period, setting the stage for the wild third period.
“C.J.’s goal was big,” Carzo said. “We take the 4-2 lead and they come back and tie it, but we didn’t back down. It’s going to be an exciting series and we hope to come back home with a 2-0 lead.”