ECHL: Kansas City Mavericks on the Verge of a Sweep in Opening Round Of Kelly Cup Playoffs

Kansas City Mavericks and Tulsa Oilers met starting on the 17th for their first-round series in the Kelly Cup playoffs. The Mavericks are favored to win the series. They have had a solid season, landing them at the league’s top. They finished the regular season at 54-12-4 and won the Branham Cup. But winning the Branham hasn’t always equated to winning the Kelly Cup. Games 1 and 2 were played in Kansas City, and then games three, four, and five in Tulsa, if necessary, before shifting back to K.C. 

The Oilers are coming in strong with a history of beating the Maverick twice this year in a way no one else has. However, with a 30-33-8 record, they have a bit more to prove. The Oilers must reach deep and pull out the win. Bigger fish have fallen to smaller poles. Going into the series, both teams are even and have everything to prove. 

Game one: We saw both teams come out with some tenacity. Oilers had the first shot on net, not relenting with Mike McKee getting the series’ first goal and Eddie Matsushima following up with a second one in the second period, taking the lead 2-0. The Mavericks started to pick up steam halfway through the second period when Jake Jaremko scored, making it 2-1, which would begin the K.C. rally. This led to high tensions and some minor scrums, with one ending in both teams getting penalized. With those high emotions, we would start the third period with a penalty KC Nolan Walker, who would score Kc’s second goal, tying the game once his two minutes in the Sinbin was up. While K.C. picked up momentum, Tulsa fought hard, trying to outshoot K.C. as they had done in the second period (17-8). But the Mavericks put even more pressure behind their play, and at 8:50 in the third, Nate Knoepke put a goal on the board, taking the lead 3-2. Going into the last five minutes of play, the Oilers tried to tie it up and force overtime. We got to see both teams leave it on the ice with the Mavericks’ Patrick Curry, with less than a minute left on the clock, gets the puck in a breakaway and puts it in the net one more time, cooking up the game-winner. Mavericks taking it 4-2.

The First Star of the Game: Nate Knoepke
The Second Star of the Game: Nolan Walker
The Third Star of the Game: Jake Jaremko

Oilers/Inside The Rink

Going into game two, the Mavericks, riding high on their first-game win, are looking to put another win under their belt. They look to take charge in this series exponentially, putting the Oilers so far back that they can’t move forward to round two of the playoffs. Both teams took to the ice in a no-holds-barred fight in game two. 

Game two: The Mavericks came in with pure tenacity, and the Oilers brought determination. The Oilers again had the game’s first goal when Alec Butcher found the weakness in Goalie Jack LaFontaine’s defense and snuck one past him. This would be the period’s only goal as the teams fought valiantly. With the Oilers, Cale Townend received the first penalty call of the period for Tripping K.C.’s Patrick Curry, sending him into the net and Goaltender Julian Junca. There would be two more penalties this period, both on the Maverick’s Ryan Jones for delay of game when he flipped the puck out of play and Patrick Curry for Hooking in the last 67 seconds. The second period starts with the Oilers on a Power Play, getting off two shots but noting in net. A bit of pushing and shoving between teams ensued, with no calls. We wouldn’t see our next goal until Kc’s Bradley Schoonbaert at 8:47, tying the game. This didn’t come without some noise. The Oilers called for goalie interference, and the play was reviewed and found sound; a Tulsa stick took him down. Our fourth penalty would follow this when both teams decided they had had enough and threw their hands after Tulsa’s Alec Butcher ran into LaFontaine, and Kc’s Ryan Jones held him accountable; during this scuffle, Tulsas Jarod Hilderman came after K.C.’s Jeremy McKenna got the business end from K.C., sending the three players to the box, putting the Mavericks at a 4v3 advantage. On that power play, the Mavericks would start their comeback M.O., and Patrick Curry would make a 2-1 game. Period three saw both teams fighting for their lives. Tulsa tied the game at 11:42 with Michael Farrens with an up-close shot. The Mavericks would follow up on that play with a stiff body check on Austin Albrecht, who would send him to the ice and then to the bench with no penalty. The Mavericks got a penalty less than a minute later when Nate Knoepke would get the only penalty for slashing. With less than 2:45 left, K.C.’s David Cotton would score the game-winning goal.  

The First Star of the Game: David Cotton
The Second Star of the Game: Patrick Curry
The Third Star of the Game: Bradley Schoonbaert

The Mavericks lead the series heading into the third game. They want to keep this lead by taking the third and making it a four-game series sweep. So far, the Oilers have yet to get that control in the third to keep the Mavericks from returning and winning. 

In game three, the Mavericks came out and took no prisoners, making the first shot on goal, keeping Tulsa at bay, and scoring the first goal at 13:06 when Justin Nachbaur found the back of the net against Julian Junca. It was 19 seconds later, and we saw our first penalty in the game against Tulsa’s Karl Boudrias for tripping. Less than 20 seconds later, K.C. would get their penalty for holding on Patrick Curry. Both teams went back and forth hard this period, with outstanding checks and skating closing out the first period with some great hockey. In the second period, the Oilers needed to take control to return and get on the board. In the first five minutes of the second period, K.C. said No sir and put another point on the board when Jeremy McKenna made it 2-0. In the next five minutes, we saw K.C. hit harder and faster than before while Tulsa tried to catch up. Dante Sheriff would see the only penalty of the period when he was called for tripping. Heading into the third period with a lead, K.C. looks to close the game with another win, holding off the Oilers until Jamie Rome made it 2-1. Not even four seconds later, the only penalty of the third was called against KC Kyle Jackson for high sticking. Tulsa, unable to score on the Power Play, is left to scramble during 5v5 to try and get a goal to tie the game. With 47 seconds left in the match, K.C.’s Patrick Curry puts another in the net, closing the game at 3-1, giving K.C. their third win of the series. 

The First Star of the Game: Jeremy McKenna
The Second Star of the Game: Justin Nachbaur
The Third Star of the Game: Jamie Rome

Kansas City Mavericks/ECHL

Game four of the series is on April 22nd, and the Mavericks have the chance to Sweep it, moving on to the next opponent on their way to winning the Kelly Cup. While it would be great for the Mavericks to have their win come on their home ice, they are willing to overlook that if it means that they sweep the series. 

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Stephanie DeLaFleur

Beat Writer covering the ECHL Savannah Ghost Pirates, NHL Vegas Golden Knights and AHL Henderson Silver Knights. Follow me on X @StephiDelafleur

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