Lessons learned: Loren Ulett hopes for bigger, better with ECHL's Mavericks in 2021-22 season
When the 2020-21 season ended for the Kansas City Mavericks, Loren Ulett left Independence with a bitter taste in his mouth.
Due to league-mandated COVID-19 protocols, there was no interaction with fans, he appeared in just 39 games and the Mavericks did not reach the playoffs for the second year in a row he played for the ECHL team.
However, Ulett said he is going to take what he learned from last season and use it to fuel his competitive fire as the left wing signed a one-year deal to play his fourth season with the team Thursday afternoon.
While Ulett is excited about his return, so is coach and general manager Tad O’Had, who believes this could be a breakthrough season.
“Loren can be a game-changer when he wants to be, and we’re hoping he wants to be a difference-maker for our team this season,” O’Had said.
“We addressed that in our (season-ending) exit interview and we’re on the same page. I can’t wait to see how he performs this season. Every time he steps on the ice, he has the ability to make us a better team.
“And we wanted to know that. When he hits a guy out on the ice, it goes right through him. He’s got a hard shot. He’s a big, strong kid who can play and we are excited to have him back.”
Ulett says he can take many lessons from last season.
“I played in one more game last year than I did my rookie year two years ago,” said Ulett, who finished with two goals and three assists in those 39 games after 10 goals and eight assists in 55 games the previous season. “That was disappointing.
“But Tad challenged me at my exit interview and I appreciated him being so honest. He expected a lot of me last season, and things didn’t go like either one of us wanted.
“But I am going into this season with the hopes of playing every game and being a game-changer. I want to make a difference and help this team win a championship because we have the best fans in the ECHL.
“I talk to guys on other teams about our fans, the way Lamar (Hunt Jr., team owner) gives us everything we need, how great the Kansas City area is – and they can’t believe it.
“I want to play here, I want to win here and we are building a team that can do that.”
While never using it as excuse, Ulett said he feeds off the energy of a sold-out Cable Dahmer Arena, and pandemic restrictions kept that from happening last season.
“I’m the type of guy who loves to interact with the fans, to get to know them and have them get to know me,” Ulett said. “For a little kid to tell me that he enjoys hockey, or plays hockey, because he’s a fan of mine, is the best compliment ever.
“And we were locked down last season and we never got that chance. It did give us the chance to get to know all our teammates because they were the only guys we were able to hang around with.
“And that was great, but this is such a great community, it’s important to get out in it and let our fans know how much they mean to us.”