Seconds after Bryan Lemos scored the game-winning goal Friday night, interim head coach Kohl Schultz calmly walked off the ice.
As his Kansas City Mavericks celebrated edging the ECHL Mountain Division rival Tulsa Oilers 2-1 in overtime at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena, Schultz was cool and collected in his first game on the bench following head coach John-Scott Dickson’s dismissal on Thursday.
Well, at least he appeared cool, calm and collected.
“I’ll be honest with you,” said Schultz, an Overland Park, Kansas, native, “I was fighting back the tears. This was a very special win – a very special night for me and the team. Walking off the ice was pretty cool – watching all those guys celebrate – after how hard they worked to get that win.”
For 19 minutes, 16 seconds of the third period, it appeared the Mavericks would win 1-0 in regulation as Tyler Parsons was starring in the net.
But the Mavericks were called for a late penalty and the Oilers pulled goalie Olle Eriksson, giving Tulsa a 6-on-4 power play. Veteran Adam Pleskach converted the chance into a game-tying goal with just 44 seconds left in regulation time.
That set the stage for a fast-paced, not-faint-of-heart overtime period in which Parsons again starred. He stopped a flurry of shots over the final two minutes that put a smile on his face.
“When the shots are coming that fast, you just smile and do your best to stop them,” Parsons said. “We were all disappointed when the game went into overtime because the guys had done such a great job playing in front of me all night.”
In the closing seconds of overtime, Lemos broke away from a pack of Oilers and took a slick pass from Zach Osburn and slid the puck past Eriksson for the game-winner with 14 seconds left.
It was an emotional night at the arena as it was the first game the Mavericks had played since Dickson was fired Thursday afternoon.
“Every guy in that locker room knows we’re the ones responsible for what happened to JSD,” captain Rocco Carzo said. “A lot has gone on over the past 24 hours, and it was important to come out tonight and give an all-out effort and get a win for Kohl in his first game as the coach.”
In the joyous locker room, Carzo presented Schultz with the game puck.
“To get that puck from the captain meant so much to me,” Schultz said. “From here on out, every game is going to be like a playoff game, and we’re going to be fine if we keep playing like we played tonight.”
The Mavericks (19-22-2-1), who had lost seven of their last eight by a combined score of 42-10, held that 1-0 lead for most of regulation play as Matt Schmalz scored his first goal since being traded to Kansas City from the Indy Fuel. He scored a power play goal at 3:38 of the first period on assists from Carzo and Justin Woods.
Parsons finished with 31 saves on 32 shots to improve to 9-5-0-1 this season.