Mavericks close out season with a win over Wichita
It was a bittersweet regular season finale for the Kansas City Mavericks.
They erupted for four goals in the second period to defeat the longtime rival Wichita Thunder 5-2 Saturday night at Cable Dahmer Arena in the final game of the season.
The win allowed the Mavericks finish at .500 at 31-31-8-2 but they failed to make the playoffs under first-year head coach Tad O'Had, who was disappointed in his team's lack of consistency but pleased with the way his squad survived a COVID-19 pandemic-altered campaign that saw many ECHL franchises choose to sit on the sidelines and wait until the start of the 2021-22 season.
"This is certainly bittersweet, but I am so proud of the way our guys played for pride over the last few weeks of the season and were able to win our last two home games," O'Had said as the Mavericks also edged the Tulsa Oilers 4-3 Friday as goalie Matt Greenfield stopped 50 of 53 shots on goal and Lane Scheidl scored two goals.
"Kohl (Schulz, assistant coach) and I begin looking into next season (Sunday). Because this season started so late, we will have the shortest offseason in the history of the league and we are going to do all we can to build a team that is tough, skilled and one our fans can be proud of on and off the ice."
Brodie Reid opened the scoring Saturday with a goal at 2:32 of the first period. However, Gordie Green and Matteo Gennaro followed with Wichita goals to give the Thunder a 2-1 lead going into the second period.
That's when the offensive floodgates opened for the Mavericks.
Scheidl tied it 2-2 just 1:32 into the second period. Giorgio Estephan gave the Mavericks a 3-2 lead at 12:40 and Reid's second goal made it 4-2 just 34 seconds later.
Marcus Crawford, who had three assists in Friday’s win, capped the second period with a goal at 16:33. The Mavericks limited the Thunder to just two shots on goal in the period.
Greenfield, who again starred in the net, stopping 32 of 34 shots, held the Thunder at bay in the third period and the Mavericks saluted their 2,410 fans in attendance with a postgame salute and T-shirt toss.
"It's definitely bittersweet," said Reid, who led the team in scoring with 25 goals and 35 assists (60 points). "I'm so pleased that we were able to win our last two games because we haven't given our fans a lot to cheer about this season, especially at home.
"We don't know what's going to happen next season, but I know this organization is going to do everything it can to build a winning team."
"We'll see what happens next season," Greenfield said after finishing 11-9-3-1. "I'd like to be a part of this organization and I know how hard Tad and Kohl will be working in the offseason. We all wish we were more successful. You watch the last two games and it's hard to believe we're not going to the playoffs. Tonight was really special. I heard an 89-year-old fan celebrated her birthday here tonight. Those are the type of fans you want to be successful for.
"And our fans were great tonight. It was really special to go out and honor them after the game with the salute and throwing them T-shirts."
Scheidl finished the season on a high note with the game-tying goal and, like his teammates, was proud of finishing with a win at home.
"We were playing for pride and our fans, and we were able to give them something to cheer about in our final two games," Scheidl said. "It's all so bittersweet. The future is going to be successful for this franchise. We wanted to be successful this season for everyone – our organization, each other and our fans. It didn't happen, and that's disappointing, but I know how hard everyone is going to work to make this organization successful next season."
The Mavericks return to action next season against the ECHL’s newest franchise, the Iowa Heartlanders, 7 p.m. Oct. 22 at Xtream Arena in Coralville, Iowa, near Iowa City. The first home game at Cable Dahmer Arena is scheduled to be the next night, Oct. 23, against Iowa at 7:05 p.m.