Following a 2-1 loss to the Hartford Wolf Pack on April 19 that concluded the Sound Tigers’ season, the Islanders recalled five players including the 22-year-old Mayfield.
“You always want to believe you have a chance and you always keep working like you’ll get that chance,” Mayfield said on his way to Denver. “Although I didn’t know I was going to play, I definitely was training and skating like I was going to be put into the lineup.”
The extra players practiced separately from the rest of the Islanders at the team’s practice rink in Syosset, N.Y. As the series wore on, the team encountered a slew of injuries on the blueline. On April 24, the day between Game Five and Game Six, Mayfield got the call.
“It kind of happened really quickly,” Mayfield recalls. “I was called up for the playoffs and was in the extra players group, then got a call from Coach Thompson to head to the Coliseum instead of the practice rink.”
Mayfield made the trip to Nassau Coliseum and practiced with the team on Friday. With an elimination game looming on Saturday afternoon, the coaching staff had a decision to make. Two of Mayfield, Matt Donovan, Ryan Pulock or Griffin Reinhart would be in the lineup for Game Six. The four had combined for one game of NHL playoff experience at that point.
“I spoke with the coaches and they said they were still thinking about who’s in and whatnot,” Mayfield said. “I kind of had a feeling that whole day I was going to get a chance.”
Mayfield got the official call while out to dinner with his girlfriend. Following dinner, he immediately called his parents, who were excited their son was making his playoff debut, but disappointed they couldn’t fly out for the game on such short notice. However, Mayfield was sure they told their friends and got the word out.
April 25. Game Six. Win and live to play another day, lose and not only the season is over, but also the end of an era in Islanders history with the team’s impending move to Barclays Center. That is quite a lot of pressure for any player, let alone a second-year pro that last played an NHL game in April 2014.
“I definitely had jitters and was anxious to get out there and get ready,” Mayfield said. “It was tough this time because it was such an important game being an elimination game, but I was also excited because I’m confident in myself and confident that I could go out there and play well.”
Anxiously waiting for the game to start is not only something the fans go through, but the players as well. Players often like afternoon games, as there is less build up and less time to wait around before puck. The 3 p.m. start was perfect for Mayfield, who played at that time nearly every Sunday this season with the Sound Tigers.
“Warmups were exciting,” Mayfield said. “It was such a cool atmosphere, it was kind of hard to get over the feeling then. I tried to get it out with my first shift and I got a few hits in right away and I got hit right away so I think that got me woken up and ready for the game. After the first period, I feel like I settled in.”
When it was all over, Mayfield played 18 shifts for a time on ice total of 10:30. He did his job, holding the fort on a pairing with Matt Donovan for a 3-1 Islanders victory. Fans knew it could be the last game at Nassau Coliseum and made sure the building went out with a bang.
“It was all pretty surreal,” Mayfield said. “It was the loudest building I’ve ever played in. The fans were amazing. It was packed. Just looking around after the game, I just remember standing there and trying to soak it all in. It was pretty special.”
After the game, fans raved about Mayfield’s performance considering the circumstances. A play where the 6-foot-5 defenseman tossed down Washington Capitals forward Jason Chimera was the highlight being shared by those online and one Mayfield feels that Islanders fans can come to expect from him.
“I’m very fortunate to have the size that I have so I want to implement it in my game,” Mayfield says. “It’s not only physical play. I need to move the puck well, I need to keep my first step hard and fast. But definitely a defensive physical presence is what I try to bring to the defensive core that I’m playing for.”
Mayfield played well in Game Seven, seeing his ice time increase to 14:20 in the deciding game. Although the Islanders ultimately ended up falling just short in the final contest of the series, it’s an experience that Mayfield will never forget.
“I had fun with it. That was one of the most important things. It was a blast to be out there and soak it all in. Not many players have the opportunity to play in a Game Seven playoff game so I’m very grateful I was given that opportunity.”
Scott Mayfield was ready for his chance. When opportunity came knocking, he was prepared to step in. However, he would not have been ready for that chance if not for the Sound Tigers.
“It was huge,” Mayfield says of his time with the Sound Tigers. “The players, the coaching staff and everyone around the team, it all gets you prepared for that chance when you get it. Some people don’t get it, but I was fortunate enough to get that opportunity. All the hard work you put in for 200 days or however long we’re in Bridgeport, it really got me ready to play in those two games in three days.”
Mayfield will get another chance to prove himself come September when training camp rolls around. Until then, he'll keep working like he's going to be on the Islanders roster.