An atypical 30 days for the Missouri Mavericks ended with a most unusual goal in their 2-1 loss to Evansville on Sunday at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena.
After Mavs goaltender Steven Summerhays reached the bench in favor of a sixth skater for a delayed Evansville penalty, a pass from Missouri forward Tyler Barnes was deflected at the attacking blue line and redirected toward the empty goal by Barnes’ stick while an IceMen defenseman spun him around.
With 14:15 left in the game, the puck covered more than half the length of the ice and bounded into the net before a Maverick could intercept it.
And despite an 8-0 advantage in shots and steady attacking the rest of the game, the Mavericks’ six-game winning streak was snapped in the last day of their unprecedented 14- out of 15-game home stand, which the organization marketed as “HoKCey Month.”
It was an unanticipated way to lose for a team who is accustomed to winning — at 41-7-2-1 and 85 points, Missouri tops the ECHL and owns what equals an 11-game advantage in the race for the Western Conference’s top seed.
“Just an unlucky bounce… a fluke goal,” said Mavericks coach Richard Matvichuk, whose team has lost just three times at home and went 11-3 in those 14 games in Independence since Jan. 22. “The scary thing is it ended up being the game winner.”
With that goal beyond his control, Summerhays made a convincing debut after his acquisition from the Alaska Aces on Thursday, saving 24 shots in his first extensive playing time since early December.
“He played awesome,” said defenseman Patrick Cullity, whose wrist shot made it 1-1 midway through the second period. “He came in and that team was ready to jump on us, but he made key saves.”
Now, for the first time since returning from a seven game road trip that ended Jan. 16, the Mavericks will load the buses for an extended road swing, departing today for three games in Indiana.
“Those are big (games). You want to keep momentum as you get closer to playoffs,” Summerhays said. “Having such a big lead in points you don’t want to ease up on the throttle and have to try to turn it on again.”