Mavericks salvage win in Rapid City trip finale

Bill Althaus
The Examiner

RAPID CITY, S.D. — The Kansas City Mavericks need to go on a lengthy winning streak if they want to make a run at postseason play under first-year head coach Tad O'Had.

The coach knows that, and so do his players.

"It's go time," O'Had said by phone Sunday night after the Mavericks overcame an early 2-0 deficit to claim an important 5-2 win over the Rapid City Rush at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center. "The new guys are making a difference and all our guys played great today. And to be honest with you, I thought we played well enough to win Saturday night (a 3-2 overtime loss), but the puck didn't roll our way.

"We wanted to go to Rapid City and get four points – we got three – which meant Sunday was pretty much of a must-win game, and our guys played some great hockey."

The 23-23-8-2 Mavericks are in seventh place in the Western Division with 56 points. Fourth-place Rapid City is 29-23-3-1 and has 62 points. Fifth place Utah has 57 points and sixth place Tulsa has 58 (because some teams played fewer games because of COVID-19, the rankings are based on winning percentage).

The Mavericks have 16 games left on the regular schedule. Their next game is at 7:05 p.m. Thursday against conference rival Wichita at Cable Dahmer Arena.

Following Saturday's overtime loss, the Mavericks came back with a vengeance Saturday as Andrew Shortridge and Giorgio Estephan both starred after being returned to the Mavericks from their American Hockey League affiliate, the Stockton Heat.

Estephan had a goal and assist and Shortridge stopped 25 of 23 shots on goal.

"We came out slow, but for 50 minutes tonight, we played the type of hockey we're going to have to play the rest of the season to make the playoffs,” O’Had said. “And I truly believe we can make it to the postseason and have a lot of success once we get there.”

Brodie Reid scored on an Estephan assist late in the first period and Bryan Lemos tied Sunday’s game at 2-2 at 9:44 of the second period on assists from Greg Moro and Loren Ulett.

Estephan scored what proved to be the game-winner at the 17:00 mark of the second period off assists from Reid and Lane Scheidl. Adam Brady scored on an assist from captain Rob Bordson assist and Darik Angeli scored an unassisted goal to put the finishing touches on the win with third-period goals.

"It's huge to get Rapid City down," Angeli said. "A win like this brings a lot of energy into the locker room heading into the playoff push. And after tonight's win, and basically splitting the weekend series, adds even more confidence. Rapid City is the hottest team in our division right now and to get a win in this building is a good building block heading into the last month of the season and the playoffs."

Added Bordson: "A big win tonight, and we needed it. It's always a boost to your lineup when you get guys from the AHL and each of the guys we got from Stockton bring a special element to our team. We all think they will help our team move forward."

In Saturday’s 3-2 overtime loss, Angeli gave the Mavericks a 1-0 lead with a goal just 2:57 into the first period.

After the Rush took a 2-1 lead with goals at 4:23 of the second period and 14:56 of the third, Scheidl tied it with just 22 seconds left to claim at least a point.

Rapid City’s Peter Quenneville, though, scored just 28 seconds into overtime to end it.

The Mavericks also lost 3-2 in regulation on Friday. Phil Marinaccio and Bordson scored goals to tie it 2-2 early in the third period, but Quenneville scored at the 7:55 mark of the third and the Rush hung on from there.