Obi Aduba sat in front of his locker, which happens to be next to rookie Missouri Mavericks goaltender Joe Howe, and filled out some paperwork.
“From what I've heard about Obi, I'm glad he lockers next to me and isn't playing against me,” joked Howe, who was in the net Saturday night when 140 minutes of penalties were handed out in the Mavericks' 4-1 victory over the Arizona Sundogs.
“In a game like that, when you see teammates defending each other, a real team bond develops,” Aduba said. “I'm glad I was here for that. I already feel like a part of this team and I can't wait for our next game.”
The former Quad City Mallard, whom coach Scott Hillman called “the Maverick killer,” won't have long to wait. The Mavericks board a bus today at 1 p.m. and head to St. Charles to play the first-year Chill for the second time in 12 days at 7:05 tonight.
“I'm really happy to be a part of this team because I feel like Scott has built something special, a team that can go all the way, and that never happened in Quad City,” Aduba said. “It was time for a change in Quad City, and I spent some time in Arizona and that wasn't working, so I was very interested when Scott called.”
Hillman said the player who owns too many game-winning goals against the Mavs to count, would be an instant upgrade on a team that is built for a championship drive.
“We have so much respect for Obi,” Hillman said. “And our fans are going to love watching the guy help beat our opponents after he helped beat us for so many years. He has a presence on the ice, in the locker room and he will have a presence in the community. He's a game-changer.”
Saturday's victory, which resembled “Fight Club” more than a CHL contest, could also be a game-changer, even though it is early in the season.
“It was different than anything I've ever been a part of,” said rookie forward Rob Kleebaum, who scored his first professional goal to give the Mavericks a 1-0 lead. “There's no real fighting in college hockey, and it seemed like that's all there was in that game Saturday.
“But I've never seen a team rally around each other like we did in that game. Colt (King) and Dave (Pszenyczny) were amazing. Talk about standing up for your teammates – everyone was talking about the way they played in that game.”
The Mavericks, though, will have to live without King and Pszenyczny for tonight’s game and two more after the two were suspended for three games because of their actions Saturday (see related story on page B2).
Defenseman Matt Stephenson, who has played just three games in a Missouri uniform, said he feels like he is a part of something special with the Mavericks.
“Saturday was a first for me,” Stephenson said. “Chez and Kinger were standing up for the guys the Sundogs were going after – really, everyone was standing up for everyone – and it brought this whole team together.
“Then, after the game, we climb on a bus for a 20-hour ride and you really bond after an experience like that. I feel like something special is going to happen this season, and I can't wait to see what it is.”
Evan Vossen, who joined the team midway through last season, agreed.
“You don't want 140 penalty minutes every game, but the way we bonded in that game – especially this early in the season – was big,” Vossen said. “It was like, 'Bring it on! We can take it and we can dish it out!' It was pretty cool the way everyone – the veterans, the new guys, the rookies, all responded.”