ECHL Round One: Kansas City Mavericks Sweep into the Second Round | 04/22/2024

Photo by: Official Kansas City Mavericks Facebook Page

Tulsa, Okla.- The Kansas City Mavericks completed their four-game sweep of the Tulsa Oilers on Monday night on the road in Tulsa. Looking at how the teams finished the regular season, many people expected the Mavericks to eliminate the Oilers in the first round, given the strength of the Mavericks compared to the Oilers and their head-to-head matchup throughout the season. The Mavericks were named the Henry Brabham Cup winners for having the best overall record in the ECHL. They finished with 114 points, nine points better than the closest team and 45 points better than their first-round opponent, the Oilers. The teams met eight times during the season, with the Mavericks winning six, scoring 29 times for a 3.63 goals-per-game average, and the Oilers scoring 16 goals for a 2.00 goals-per-game average. The Mavericks outscored the Oilers 12-6 during the four-game series, maintaining a 3.00 goals-per-game average. Regardless of the final scores in each game, the Oilers played the Mavericks tough, as open ice was scarce for both teams throughout the series.

Photo by: Official Kansas City Mavericks Facebook Page

The Mavericks won game one 4-2 at home in front of 3,651 fans. Tulsa would build a two-goal lead in that game on goals from Mike McKee (1) and Eddie Matsushima (1), but the Mavericks would storm back, scoring four straight goals to take the victory. Jake Jaremko (1), Nolan Walker (1), Nate Knoepke (1), and Patrick Curry (1) scored the goals for Kansas City. Mavericks goaltender Cale Morris stopped 34 of 36 shots for the win, and the Oilers Julian Junca took the loss on 32 of 35 shots.

4,431 fans descended on the Cable Dahmer Arena in Kansas City, Mo., to watch game two. The Oilers would, again, jump out to a lead in the first period on a goal by Alec Butcher (1). Bradly Schoonbaert (1) and Patrick Curry (2) scored for the Mavericks in the second period, putting them ahead by 2-1. Oilers Michael Farren (1) would tie the game at 11:42 in the third period, but David Cotton (1) scored the game-winner at 17:19, giving the Mavericks their second game in the series. Head coach Tad O’Had started goaltender Jack LaFontaine for the Mavericks, while Julia Junca returned to the crease for the Oilers. LaFontaine won, stopping 38 of 40 shots, and Junca took his second loss with 26 of 29 shots blocked.

Game three’s venue changed to the BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla. A less-than-average crowd of 4,563 fans watched the game on Friday night. The Mavericks would jump out first with a goal by Justin Nachbaur (1) at 13:06 of the first period. They would add to their lead when Jeremy McKenna (1) found the back of the net early in the second period.  Jamie Rome (1) would get the Oilers on the board at 4:55 in the third, but Patrick Curry (3) would seal the victory on an empty net goal at 19:17. The victory moved the Oilers to the brink of elimination while the Mavericks could enjoy some much-needed rest with a sweep. Cale Morris returned to the net for the Mavericks, earning his second series win with a 0.964 save percentage. Junca took his third straight loss with a 0.913 save percentage. Patrick Curry continued to be an Oilers killer with his third goal in the series. 

The teams enjoyed a two-day rest before returning to the ice on Monday night for game four. The Mavericks were looking to sweep the Oilers, and the Oilers were looking for their first win and an extension on the series. 4,033 fans greeted the hometown Oilers, hoping to see a victory. The Oilers scored the game’s first goal for the third time when Mike McKee (2) blasted a slapshot past netminder Jack LaFontaine. Cade Borchardt (1) tied the game up 13 seconds later when he was left alone in front of Julian Junca. Borchardt (2) would score his second goal of the game and the series-winner at 8:42 of the second period. The Oilers increased their offensive pressure, resulting in several high-quality scoring opportunities, but the Mavericks defense and LaFontaine kept the puck out of the net. The Mavericks return home to await the Idaho Steelheads-Allen Americans series winner. The Steelheads hold a 1-0 lead, winning game one on Monday night 6-5 in overtime.

Photo by: Official Tulsa Oilers Facebook Page

The Mavericks won the series on the strength of their two goaltenders and the scoring from their top players. Jack LaFontaine finished with two wins and a 0.953 save percentage, and Cale Morries also finished with two wins and a 0.959 save percentage. Patrick Curry scored five points and three goals to lead the team in the series, and Cade Borchardt was second with four points. Curry ended the regular season first in goals and scoring for the team and second in both categories for the ECHL. Rookie Borchardt led rookie scoring in the ECHL with 77 points. The Oilers top two scorers were all but non-existent in the series. Kyle Crnkovic, the Oilers’ top scorer in the regular season with 54 points, only managed an assist in the four-game series. Eddie Matsushima led the team in goals with 25 and was second in scoring with 53 points, yet he only cracked the scoresheet once, a goal in game one. One highlight for the Oilers was the play of netminder Julian Junca. Even though he took all four losses, he had a 0.915 save percentage for the series, significantly higher than his season save percentage of 0.901. While the Mavericks look to the second round, the Oilers look to next season. They showed tremendous grit and determination against the Mavericks. Head coach Rob Murray will adjust his roster and system, and they should return to the playoffs next season.

James Slemp

I write for and photograph the Florida Everblades for ITR. I am a retiree that has turned my hobby of photography into a business. I currently live in Sarasota, Florida with my wife, Christy, but I'm originally from California. My previous career has taken me all over the US and the world and I definitely enjoy traveling. I've played hockey for over 30 years, learning as an adult, and love the game.

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