ALLEN, Texas – No Mitch Hults?
No problem for coach John-Scott Dickson and his Kansas City Mavericks who started a rugged road trip with a convincing 5-3 victory over the Allen Americans Thursday night at the Allen Event Center.
What made the win ever more impressive is that Kansas City beat their arch rival without Hults, the hottest player on the team (four goals and four assists in his last five games), who was recalled to the American Hockey League by Stockton earlier in the day.
“We knew we were going to be short one skater because Hults got called up,” Dickson said after his team improved to 15-16-2-0, “then we had an issue with a defenseman and were down to nine forwards and five D-men, so the guys really went out and gutted out a greasy, gritty win.
“Nick (Schneider, who stopped 36 of 39 shots) was great in the goal and we had an answer for every time they scored. And the third period was big. He’s the smallest guy on the ice, and I hate to keep saying that, but it’s true, but C.J. Eick had a great game and his two goals in the third period were huge.”
Eick scored two goals and captain Rocco Carzo and rookie forward Bryan Lemos had two assists each.
The Americans entered Thursday’s game with the best record (23-5-5-1) and most points (52) in the Mountain Division and the ECHL overall.
“This just a big win – a big road win, a big division win and a big win over a very good Allen American team,” Carzo said after the Mavericks moved within five points (37-32) of the fourth-place Rapid City Rush for the final playoff spot in the Mountain Division. “We knew we were going to be a man down because Hults got called up, but as it turned out, we were down two skaters and we didn’t back down. I think it kind of fired everyone up.”
Mavericks forward Ryan Van Stralen opened the scoring at 5:24 of the first period. David Dziurzynski and Derek Pratt assisted on the goal.
Allen tied the game with six seconds left in the opening frame on a goal by Alex Guptill.
A redirected shot by Loren Ulett snapped the 1-1 tie at 12:32 of the second period. Lemos and Neal Goff assisted on the goal.
That set the stage for an electric third period, dominated by Eick.
Allen tied it 3:01 into the third period on a goal by Gabriel Gagne.
Eick, though, answered with his first goal of the third period. Carzo and Darian Dziurzynski picked up assists on the goal that gave Kansas City a 4-2 lead at the 5:30 mark.
The Mavericks padded their lead when Ryan Galt scored a breakaway goal after a pass from Lemos.
Allen cut its deficit to 4-3 on a goal by former Maverick forward Corey Durocher. Another former Maverick, Jared VanWormer, assisted on the goal.
Kansas City regained its two-goal lead when Eick netted his second goal of the game at the 14:02 mark of the third period on an assist from Carzo.
“We have not been very good this season answering an opponent’s goal, and I think that is a big reason why we don’t have a better record,” Carzo said. “Tonight, we had an answer and we were able to get a big road win.”
The Mavericks face the Americans in Allen again at 7:05 p.m. Friday and then have a break until Jan. 10 with a home game against the Tulsa Oilers.