Nearly lost in the excitement of Mark Cooper’s two-goal game, Jared VanWormer’s back-handed game winner and the Kansas City Mavericks’ 3-2 victory over Tulsa Wednesday night in Game 3 of the 2019 ECHL Kelly Cup Playoffs was the brilliance of Mason McDonald’s goaltending.
“It’s easy to take Mason for granted because he’s been so good for the past three months,” captain Rocco Carzo said after the Mavericks took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven Mountain Division series that continues at 7:05 p.m. Friday at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena.
“We got that 2-0 lead – on two power-play goals by Coop – and then they come back and get two power-play goals on us. That’s when we said, ‘They ain’t gonna score another goal,’ and we just climbed on Mase’s back and found a way to win,” Carzo added. “The guy works so hard, and means so much to the team, none of us want to let him down. We’d do anything out there for Mase.”
In front of an enthusiastic crowd of 3,467, the Mavericks took a 2-0 lead on two Cooper power-play goals in the first period, but all Cooper wanted to talk about was the total team effort.
“This was a team win, and it starts with Mase in goal,” said Cooper, who scored his first two goals of the playoffs on home ice and also earned an assist on VanWormer’s game-winning goal. “He works so hard in the net and we want to work that hard for him.
“It was big getting the lead tonight, but they came back and tied it, and Worms (VanWormer) did what he does best – getting a big goal in front of the net. The crowd was electric tonight – we fed off them.
“And we hope all of them – and lot more fans – come to our game Friday because this is going to be a tough, intense series and we’re going to need all the fan support we can get.”
Moments after the win, VanWormer exited the locker room for his postgame ritual that includes riding a stationary bike, lifting weights and stretching, but he was more than happy to talk about the first playoff win at home in two years.
“It was a battle, it was an intense game, it was playoff hockey,” said VanWormer, who got an assist on Cooper first goal just 1:15 into the game. “Coop got us going with those two power-play goals and Tulsa fought back again and tied the score.”
The Mavericks held a 2-0 lead Sunday in Tulsa only to see the Oilers tie the game 2-2 in the third period and win it in overtime.
“When they tied it, you could just tell that we weren’t going to make a mistake or do anything to let them get a third goal,” VanWormer continued. “And Mase was huge in the net again, just like he has been all season.”
VanWormer’s game-winner was a slick, back-handed goal that has become his trademark.
“You take what they give you,” said VanWormer, whose goal was assisted by Cooper and defenseman Nikolas Koberstein. “He was out of the net a little bit and I was able to redirect it into the net.”
After that goal, the intensity seemed to raise to a new level.
“It was intense out there, that’s for sure,” said McDonald, who stopped 26 of 28 shots. “But that’s playoff hockey. It’s great that they guys give me some credit, but they are all out there working so hard.
“Worms scores the game-winner, and he and the other guys are blocking shots with their bodies. That’s how you win games like this. We knew how important this game was, especially after we let them come back and win Sunday.
“It was like a must-win game, even though it’s just the third game of the series. But we played a good game, our fans came out to support us and we found a way to win.”
After Cooper gave the Mavericks a 2-0 first-period lead, Stephen Perfetto scored at the 4:31 mark of the second period to cut the deficit to one. Eric Drapluk then knotted it 2-2 at 11:29.
“You just get the feeling that this is going to be a deep series, with two teams playing well, two great goaltenders and, like I said earlier, the intensity of playoff hockey,” Mavericks coach John-Scott Dickson said. “I don’t know how many fans were here tonight, but they were as loud as many sold-out crowds we’ve played in front of and I know how much they mean to me and the guys on the team.
“We want to see them all again Friday.”
Tulsa goalie Devin Williams stopped 30 of 33 Mavericks shots on goal.