By Bill Althaus
As Scott Hillman walked into his office at the Independence Events Center Monday morning, he was greeted by former Missouri Mavericks assistant director of hockey operations Simon Watson.
They exchanged handshakes, and the Mavericks coach said, “I didn't even play Saturday and it was all I could do to get out of bed this morning.”
The Mavericks returned from Arizona following a 20-hour bus ride late Sunday night with four points – a 3-2 Friday night win and a wild 4-1 triumph Saturday that was marred by 140 minutes of penalties.
“We went down there to get four points and were able to do that,” Hillman said after his team improved to 3-0. “The first game was hard fought. The second, well, some liberties were taken and our boys didn't appreciate it. It got interesting, to say the least.”
Of those 140 minutes, 82 were handed out after a second period that included Hillman and Sundogs coach Kevin Colley exchanging words and both getting slapped with unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.
As the horn sounded Arizona’s Justin Pender knocked Mavs captain Sebastien Thinel to the ice and gave him a cross-check to the back of the head, Hillman said.
“There’s no room in our sport for something like that,” Hillman said. “They wanted to intimidate him. No way – he can’t be intimidated – and his teammates stood up for him.”
Pender was given a game misconduct and spent the rest of the night with teammate Ian Schultz, who was also kicked out of the game for an earlier attack on rookie Anders Franzon.
“The boys really rallied around their teammates,” Hillman added. “No one is going to intimidate this group this year.”
Rookie Rob Kleebaum put the Mavericks on the board with his first pro goal and the team’s first power play goal of the season. Dave Pszenyczny then ricocheted the puck off a Sundogs player to give Missouri a 2-0 first-period lead.
Following the second period, and the massive 82-minute penalty debacle, Trevor Kell scored on a power play to give Missouri a 3-0 lead. Thinel, who assisted on Kell’s goal, then proved the intimidation didn’t work as he scored the Mavericks’ final goal – again on a power play – for a 4-0 lead at the 11:08 mark. Eric Castonguay finished with three assists, all on the final three goals.
Arizona’s Kevin Baker scored with less than 5 minutes left to finally put Arizona on the board.
“Joe (Howe) was just outstanding in the net, just like Shane (Owen) was Friday night,” Hillman said of Howe, who stopped 26 of 27 shots. “We have two very good young goaltenders, and everyone is contributing this season – offensively and defensively.”
The Mavericks’ seven goals in Arizona came from six different players. Missouri has allowed just five goals (with one coming off the stick of defenseman Matt Stephens in St. Charles). Owen shook off Stephens’ accidental goal, and Hillman said Howe was not at all affected by the craziness of Saturday night.
“All business,” Hillman said. “That's what you want to see from your goalies.”
The Mavericks play at St. Charles Wednesday and at Tulsa Friday before returning to the Events Center for the 7:05 p.m. Saturday home opener. Less than 400 tickets remain for that game.