ECHL Series Recap: Kansas City Mavericks vs. Idaho Steelheads | Round 2
Mavericks vs Steelhead Photo| Steelheads Hockey

This week marked the culmination of a five-game series between the Idaho Steelheads and the Kansas City Mavericks. These two teams, the top-ranked road team, and the ECHL regular-season champion, brought their A-game to the ice. KC entered this round undefeated, having swept Tulsa in four games, while Idaho secured their leveling up against Allen in five, with a minor setback in game three. Throughout this series, we mostly saw grit and determination, but some definite spiciness was mixed in. Mavericks Max Andreev finished his five-game suspension and joined his team, while Idahos Jordan Kawaguchi would get suspended for one game during the series, and Idahos Matt Register became the new All-Time leader for points scored during the postseason at 118. A record held for 19 years by Phil Berger. He also took the All-time lead for assists at 89 and postseason games played at 156.

KC’s goaltending was the absolute smoke show in this series, with Cale Morris and Jack LaFontaine dominating the game. Morris saw 105 shots in his three games of this series. LaFontaine saw 88 in his two games; 56 of 88 were in the series’ final game, the most he has ever faced. Idaho’s goaltending brought the heat, too. Bryan Thomson was in the net for four games against KC and took on a total of 127, with 51 being during the last game. Jake Kielly saw two games against KC with a count of 42. Idaho chose to keep Thomson in the net more than Kielly and really just had a whole thought process: if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Then the wheels fell off. Games one and two were a rollercoaster of great plays and unexpected turns; games three and four were a testament to the players’ passion and intensity.

The Mavericks owned the puck in game one, with Jacob Hayhurst and David Cotton scoring twice each. However, they also had the most penalties, including the infamous ‘Too many men on the ice,’ which is a lack of awareness that is considered an utterly unacceptable play in hockey. On the other hand, Idaho demonstrated its resilience again, with defenseman of the year Patrick Kudla and Jake Murray scoring in the third period. This trend of Idaho returning in the second and third periods to wreak havoc on the other teams was a constant source of intrigue. But their comeback didn’t fully develop, and the Mavericks took the game 4-2. 

The intensity was palpable in game two as Idaho turned up the heat, outshooting the Mavericks 32-29. Mavericks saw the first goal by David Cotton, who proved to be a severe threat in this series, then a second to retake the lead in the second period by Cole Coskey. Idaho would be the penalty leader in this game, with the players starting to get frustrated with each other and make big mistakes. The game was a showcase of skill and puck handling, with Jordan Kawaguchi, Keaton Mastrodonato, and Ty Pelton-Byce leading the charge, bringing Idaho back in the third period to have their only victory of the series 3-2.

Game three had the lowest amount of penalties in the entire series, with two each: three high-stickings and one goalie interference. Idaho outshot KC 40 to 28. That didn’t stop KC; in the first period, Patrick Curry, Cade Borchardt, Cole Coskey, and Jeremy McKenna found the weak link and did not hesitate. Idaho’s Wade Murphy squeaked one in during that period, but when KC scored again during the second period, that one goal wasn’t doing Idaho any favors. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t action; there just weren’t calls on the action that was there. Then here comes the comeback, kid… Idaho goes on to score FOUR goals, with Ty Pelton-Byce, Jordan Kawaguchi, Keaton Mastrodonato, and  Lynden McCallum rallying the team. These would have been enough to tie the game and give Idaho a better chance of taking the lead in the series if KC didn’t have Bradley Schoonbaert and Nolan Walker’s laser focus, giving KC the win 7-5. 

The teams got together for game four, and it was clear that both teams had enough of each other. Eight penalties, enough of each other. Both are taking calls for roughing, with Jordan Kawaguchis leading to a one-game suspension by the ECHL. But with this, both teams played hard, keeping shots low, Idaho still outshooting KC. KC would still dominate in the first and second periods. KC’s powerhouse of Curry, Walker, McKenna, and Jake Jaremko all had goals again this game, While A.J. white and Jordan Kawaguchi tried to revive Idaho again in the third period but ended up losing the game 5-3. 

Game five came down hard, nail-biting, baby screaming in the background hard, with ten penalties and lots of uncalled minor scrums. Both teams had over 50 shots on goal and were clearly out for blood. They tied it up in the first period with KC’s McKenna and Max Andreev, while A.J. White and Reece Harsch for Idaho made the goals. The second period saw KC get in the net with Curry once again, then in the third, Idahos’ White would tie it, sending us to overtime where Cade Borchardt would make a wicked rebound, ending overtime and propelling the Mavericks to series three, ending the game 4-3.

Idaho stayed home while Kansas City headed home to get ready to take on Toledo Walleyes next. This is the first time the Mavericks have made it to the third round of the Kelly Cup Playoffs and the first time they will face the Walleyes this season. Toledo is on a 22-game hot streak and is a team that will readily test KC and make them play harder than they have this postseason.

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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