For new Missouri Maverick players like Eric Castonguay and Rob Kleebaum, the anticipation of what to expect Saturday night at the Independence Events Center is special.
For veterans like Sebastien Thinel and Andrew Courtney, it's still equally exciting.
“This will be my fourth home opener at the IEC,” said Thinel, the team captain and reigning Central Hockey League MVP and scoring leader. “It will be my third as a Maverick, and we opened here when I was playing for Odessa.
“This is the one building everyone looks forward to playing in because of the crowd and the energy. Saturday night is going to be a special night for the fans, the players, everyone.”
Coach Scott Hillman is asking Mavs fans to bring the passion, because his team is playing its third game in four days – with wins Wednesday at St. Charles and Friday at Tulsa to improve to 5-0-0. And the Mavs will be facing a 5-0-1 Denver Cutthroats team that was ranked No. 1 in the first CHL Coaches Poll out Friday.
“We're going to need our fans' help Saturday night, because the boys are going to feed off the fans' energy, the excitement they bring to the arena,” Hillman said of his fourth-ranked Mavericks. “It's early, but it's still three games in four nights, and the passion and energy our fans bring will be of the utmost importance.”
Courtney, who started last season in the East Coast Hockey League, can't wait for Saturday's home opener.
“Games like Saturday are when the little kid inside you comes out,” Courtney said. “You get excited, like a kid at Christmas. We've been playing so well on the road, and now we have to come home and give our fans a big win in the opener.
“The guys who have experienced home games have talked to the new guys, and you can tell how excited they are about playing in front of a packed house.”
Castonguay is a veteran player, but Saturday will be his first home opener with the Mavs, and he can't wait.
“I've talked with Sebbie (Thinel), and he says this is the most amazing place to play,” Castonguay said. “What we have to do is not get overexcited and put extra pressure on ourselves to win.
“We have to keep playing like we have on the road – where everyone is contributing. That is how championship teams play, where you don't have to rely on a player like Sebbie to do it all offensively.”
In a 6-1 victory at St. Charles Wednesday, six different Mavericks, including Castonguay, scored a goal and Kleebaum had three assists.
“I personally can't wait for Saturday night,” said Kleebaum, a CHL rookie. “All the older guys have been talking about the atmosphere when it's sold out, and that just gets me excited.”
When asked if the pressure of winning at home might pose a problem for some of the younger Mavs, Kleebaum said, “I don't see that as a problem at all. Everyone has stepped it up this season, and that's why we've had so much success.
“There isn't any added pressure playing at home, just added excitement. I've heard so much about the home crowds, and Saturday night I get to experience it all first hand.”
MAVS SIGN DEFENSEMAN: The Mavericks signed defenseman Henrik Odegaard to a standard player contract. The Asker, Norway, native was assigned to the Mavericks by their American Hockey League affiliate, the Chicago Wolves, during training camp and was initially signed to a five-game player agreement.
The Mavericks have placed defenseman Colten Hayes on seven-day injured reserve with an upper body injury. Hayes has not played in the last two games for the Mavericks.
The Mavericks had only 14 skaters on their bench against Tulsa Oilers Friday with Dave Pszenyczny and Colt King suspended through Saturday, and Tyler Currier and Hayes on injured reserve.
FEW TICKETS REMAIN: Just 106 tickets remained for Saturday's home opener as of Friday afternoon. The Mavericks led the CHL with 17 sellouts last season and averaged more than 5,000 fans per game.