ST. CHARLES, Mo. – Shane Owen might be a first-year player in the Central Hockey League, but the Missouri Mavericks goaltender looked like a polished veteran in a 3-2 shootout win over the first-year St. Charles Chill in the season opener for the cross-state rivals.
Owen stopped 29 of 31 Chill shots in regulation and a five-minute overtime period and three of four shots in a shootout as Sebastien Thinel slipped the puck past former Mavericks goalie Mathieu Corbeil in the shootout to help Missouri get off to a 1-0 start.
“Scott (Hillman) has been talking about how two points early in the season mean as much as two points in the final week, so this was a big win,” said Thinel, the reigning CHL scoring champion and league MVP. “There were a lot of weird things in this game.
“We had 10 PK (penalty kills) and Shane did a great job in the net. He was just outstanding, nothing seemed to bother him. He’s going to have a great season, you can just tell it from what we saw tonight.”
Rookies Anders Franzon and Saverio “Sam” Posa gave the Mavericks a 2-0 advantage going into a crazy third period that saw the Chill outshoot the Mavericks 15-4 and knot the score at 2-all with just 1:11 left in regulation.
Ironically, the first goal in Chill history came off the stick of Missouri defenseman Matt Stephenson, who deflected the puck past Owen at 4:02. The goal was awarded to Jordan Fox, the player closest to Stephenson when the miscue took place.
“Things like that happen,” said Owen, who took it all in stride. “I made plenty of mistakes in the game. The big thing is that we found a way to win.”
Franzon scored the first goal of the season and the first of his pro career.
“I got the puck,” he said. “I’ll find a place for it back at my apartment. I don’t have a mantle to put it on, so I’ll just keep it in a drawer or something. I don’t think it would be of much interest on eBay.”
Veteran forward Andrew Courtney interrupted Franzon and quipped, “You never know. Our fans are crazy for this team. You never know, it might go for $50.”
Laughter filled the locker room as the team prepared to load the bus for the lighthearted ride back to Independence.
“This was a big win,” Mavericks coach Scott Hillman said. “Shane Owen was just outstanding in goal. Right off the bat, we have 10 PKs and he rose to the occasion. We have the little accident where we knock the puck into our own net, and it doesn’t even faze him.
“We saw his athleticism when he played that exhibition game (with the Mavericks’ American Hockey League affiliate Chicago Wolves) and he showed it again tonight. There have been a lot of questions about our goaltending, and I believe he answered many of them tonight.”
Owen was just one of many bright spots for the Mavericks.
“We looked to improve our blue line and look how well that group played,” Hillman said. “We had two rookie D-men score tonight. I just told the boys, the rookies started it and the old man (Thinel) ended it.”
The 11th-year veteran’s heroics would not have been necessary had it not been for the Chill’s first power-play goal of the season. With just over a minute left in game regulation, forward Martin Hlinka scored to send the game into overtime, setting up the dramatic shootout.
Fox scored on the Chill’s first shootout attempt, but no other St. Charles player was able to get the puck past Owen.
John-Scott Dickson, Thinel and Eric Castonguay all scored for the Mavericks.
“It’s a great way to start the season and start my career with the Mavs,” said Owen, who was honored as the Three-Star Player of the Game. “We had a great defensive effort out there tonight, and the boys took care of me offensively.
“A win like this gets you excited about the season. And I couldn’t believe how many of our fans attended the game. It felt like a home game – although I hear that our home games are crazy when it’s sold out. I can’t wait.”
More than 350 Mavericks fans sat behind the Mavericks bench and throughout the Family Arena.
“Our fans are the best,” Hillman added. “All the new guys have something special coming when we play our home opener (Nov. 2 vs. Denver). They got a taste of it tonight.”
The Mavericks continue their season-opening five-game road trip when they travel to Arizona for a pair of games Friday and Saturday.
Follow Bill Althaus on Twitter: @AlthausEJC