The Kansas City Mavericks secured a series split by winning their home opener against the Iowa Heartlanders. After taking a 7-4 shellacking in Coralville, Iowa on Friday, the Mavericks got down to business and beat the Deer 5-3 on home ice on Saturday. The two games between the Mavericks and Heartlanders had a little bit of everything. Between potent scoring, strong defensive play and plenty of extracurriculars, what was not to like? One thing that is abundantly clear is that Iowa and Kansas City are the ECHL’s newest minted bitter rivalry.
Mavericks Drop Opener in Coralville
Friday night’s game was not an ideal one for the Mavericks. Falling 7-4, it never seemed like Kansas City quite got to their game. After allowing Iowa to score just 25 seconds in, the Mavericks seemed to be on their heels through majority of the contest. Their passing was not crisp and there were some very costly turnovers. The two teams picked right back up from where they left off after the preseason matchup when it came to bad blood. There were several fights and a ton of pushing and shoving after the whistle in this matchup. The Mavericks struggled defensively, and unfortunately, goaltender Angus Redmond had a rough night. It’s rare that a loss is entirely the goaltender’s fault, and this game certainly wasn’t one of those cases, but there were definitely several goals Redmond would like back.
The two main stories of Friday night’s game were the high score and the amount of physicality that it featured. In total, 11 goals were tallied between the two teams. The four Mavericks goals came from Greg Moro, Ryan Olsen, Lane Scheidl and Loren Ulett. Scoring came early and often. So did the fists. In particular, Mikael Robidoux was stirring the pot from beginning to end. He also had two “fights” that were more like connected spins and falls. One of Robidoux’s altercations came with Fedor Gordeev, a six-foot-seven defenseman. By the end of the meeting, the referee had enough with Robidoux and tossed him early on in the game’s final frame. But Robidoux was not the only Maverick contributing to the extracurriculars. Willie Corrin seems to be playing with more of an edge this season, as well as Marcus Crawford.
Overall, it was not a great opening game for Kansas City, but it was certainly an eventful one. One bright side for the Mavericks was their penalty kill was very good, giving it their all at 100%. Statistically, they did not do as bad of a job as the eye test might suggest. One thing to remember was that three of the players on the team had just been assigned by Stockton two days before, and the team was visiting a barn hosting its first-ever game. That is always a tough situation in which to win.
Mavericks Triumphant in Thrilling Home Opener
Kansas City looked like an entirely different team on Saturday night, as they cruised to a 5-3 victory over the Heartlanders in their home opener. The Mavericks came out flying, defending and skating hard, setting up fantastic offensive plays, and most of all, Angus Redmond played out of his mind in the net. The improved play paid off, as Kansas City struck first and never ended up trailing. Like the night before, there were plenty of fireworks as well.
As mentioned above, Redmond stood on his head between the pipes. He needed a bounce back from Friday and he responded in a major way. Stopping 22 of 25 shots, the Canadian backstop had great control of his crease. The first period especially was punctuated by fantastic saves by the backstop. The Deer tried several times to beat him on side-to-side movement, but it seemed like he was always a step ahead. He had several sprawling saves that completely robbed the Deer of several goals. He also flashed his glove impressively. The goals he did let in mostly came on an extended major penalty kill for the Mavericks. Those goals left Redmond with little to no chance of stopping them.
Kansas City showed solid offensive skills in Saturday’s contest. The first of their five goals came on a two-on-one rush where Lane Scheidl stuffed it in past Hunter Jones. Ryan Olsen contributed as well, as he tallied a pair of goals on the night. His most important one came with 49 seconds left in the third, which allowed the Mavericks to go out on top. Other goals came from Westin Michaud in the second period, and Shawn Weller scoring an empty-net goal to cap off the victory. The offence was clicking on all cylinders. The passing was crisp, the plays were smart, and they all seemed to be on the same page. Kansas City ended the game with 20 shots on goal.
By this point, it’s not a KC-Iowa game without its fair share of fights and heavy hits. The usual suspect, Mikael Robidoux, was center stage in this aspect of the game. The physical game kicked off when the La Prarie, QC native threw a very heavy hit against Iowa defenseman Shane Kuzmeski. Kuzmeski left the ice in a significant amount of pain. From that point on, Robidoux became a target. At one point, he was hit by an Iowa player, as he was straddling the bench leaving the ice. This incensed Robidoux who retaliated. Then he was cross-checked by defenseman Alex Carlson before being jumped at center ice by Kris Bennett. Robidoux fought back and eventually had to be forced by both linesmen into the penalty box.
As Robidoux exited the penalty box, he threw a knee at Iowa forward Ben Sokay and pandemonium ensued. Robidoux immediately had a dancing partner, and then forward Jesse Mychan jumped into the fray. Koletrane Wilson was next to jump in. Mychan got his partner on the ice and continued pounding on him until the linesmen pulled him off. The Saskatoon native then proceeded to skate around the rink in an attempt to ham it up for the crowd. Both Mychan and Robidoux were ejected from the contest, and Mychan was assessed with an aggressor penalty. This led to a five-minute penalty kill, where the Mavericks allowed a pair of goals.
The third period was mainly uneventful right up until the final minute. At the 19:53 mark, Iowa’s Jeff Solow was given an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and Marcus Crawford was hit with a cross-checking minor. Then something happened to cause Wilson to erupt. It seemed another near-line brawl was in the making. As Wilson was ejected, Ulett threw a high hit to an Iowa player and was given a double-minor penalty for high sticking. Wilson skated off the ice with Crawford, both doing their part to rile up the crowd a little more. And with that, the game was over.
This was perhaps the most thrilling Mavericks home opener in years. If this team continues to play the way they did on Saturday night, expect that to carry them far. The changes that GM and Head Coach Tad O’Had made in the offseason were very apparent. This team plays with an edge, sticks up for each other, and doesn’t let off the gas until the game is won.
Kansas City is back in action on Wednesday night, as they host the Tulsa Oilers for the first time this season.
Update: Mavericks forwards Mikael Robidoux and Jesse Mychan were both suspended by the league on Monday. Robidoux received a four game suspension, meanwhile, Mychan was handed a two-game ban.