By Bill Althaus
There were smiles and high-fives as the Missouri Mavericks skated off the ice Friday morning, following a strenuous one-hour plus session that coach Scott Hillman gave high praise.
“It looked like a group of skaters who were hoping to make a team, rather than a group of players who had made the team and were preparing for their first game,” Hillman said. “I liked what I saw on the ice today.
“Good energy, a group that appears ready to go. It's been a brief but demanding camp. The guys have worked hard and you can tell they are excited about tomorrow.”
The Mavericks travel to play the expansion St. Charles Chill at 7:05 p.m. Saturday and rookie defenseman Anders Franzon believes the game will provide enough electricity to light up the north side of St. Louis.
“It's their first game, and we're cross-state rivals and have all the connections with the Mavericks ownership group owning the Chill – it's going to be electric,” said Franzon, a graduate of the University of Vermont. “It's my first professional game, so you know I'm going to be excited. I've been in town about three weeks and we've really worked hard as a team. Now, we have the team set and it's time to focus on the importance of winning our first game.
“I can't wait – and I know all the other guys feel that way, too.”
Former CHL All-Star forward Andrew Courtney is glad he gets to begin this season with the Mavericks.
“I wasn't with the team at the start of last season,” said Courtney, who was attempting to catch on with a team in the East Coast Hockey League, “so this season is really different for me.
“The camaraderie and chemistry we've developed at practice shows what type of team Scott and (team president) Brent (Thiessen) have put together. This is a good group of guys, and Scott has talked about the importance of getting off to a good start.
“Practice today was great. A lot of energy and I think all the hard work from the past two weeks is going to pay off.”
The Mavericks announced their final cut on Thursday, waiving forward Cody Crichton. The team enters the season with 11 forwards, six defensemen and three goaltenders. Hillman said it will be a game-day decision as to who starts in goal in the opener, but that all three goalies will see action in the first week of the season.
“We have confidence in our three young goaltenders and that situation will work itself out over the first few weeks of the season,” Hillman said.
Page 2 of 2 - Defenseman Henrik Odegaard, on assignment from the American Hockey League's Chicago Wolves, will continue to play with the Mavericks on a five-game player agreement, allowing the team to carry an extra player through those first five games.
Forward Tyler Currier, who suffered a lower body injury last week, has been placed on the Mavericks' injured reserve. He sat in the stands Friday and watched practice.
“We've been at this for five months, with the recruiting and evaluation of talent,” Hillman said. “The boys really put their blood and sweat into earning spots on this team. The chemistry is coming together and they are starting to gel. We believe we have depth and scoring that will come from all three lines and we have a strong group of defensemen who can really play a dynamic game.”
CHL ADOPTS RULE CHANGE: The Central Hockey League Board of Governors unanimously approved Friday the adaptation of a rule that would penalize players for removing their helmet prior to engaging in a fight.
“Player safety is of the utmost importance and the hockey community has saw fit to take whatever necessary steps they can to offer the safest playing environment for their players,” CHL commissioner Steve Ryan said in a press release. “I applaud our owners and governors for recognizing the importance of this issue and voting accordingly.”
The rule calls for a two-minute minor penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct if a player removes his helmet prior to engaging in a fight or should a player deliberately remove another player’s helmet in the course of a fight. Helmets that come off in the course of and resulting from the altercation will not result in a penalty to either player.
Follow Bill Althaus on Twitter: @AlthausEJC