With chants of “We want burgers! We want burgers!” rocking the Independence Events Center Saturday night, veteran forward Andrew Courtney accommodated the largest crowd in the five-year history of the Missouri Mavericks by slapping the puck past Denver’s Kent Patterson for his third goal of the game.
Courtney’s hat trick brought hundreds of hats flying onto the ice in the Mavericks’ 6-2 home opening win and rewarded the record crowd with free hamburgers. Any time the Mavericks score six or more goals, fans can exchange their ticket stubs for free burgers at a local franchise.
“Burgers and a victory, it doesn’t get much better than that,” quipped Courtney, sporting a bright orange cowboy hat he snatched from the ice along with a stylish Halloween-themed feather boa. “We wanted to get that sixth goal so our fans could get the burgers, but winning was the most important thing tonight.”
For the first time in team history, the Mavericks sold 50 standing room tickets, which accounted for the record crowd of 5,850. The Mavericks improved to a perfect 6-0-0 while dropping the Cutthroats to 6-1-1. The Mavs, with 12 points, trail Allen (15), Rapid City (14) and Denver (13) but have played one to three fewer games than all of those teams.
“We have the best fans in the CHL,” president Brent Thiessen said. “We haven’t been able to reward them with a home-opening win the past two seasons. Tonight was just an awesome night – a great win and the biggest crowd we’ve ever had for a game.”
The line of Courtney, Sebastien Thinel and Eric Castonguay accounted for 11 points in the blowout, with Courtney getting three goals and two assists, Thinel added two goals and two assists and the rookie Castonguay finished with two assists.
“Sebastien is a magician; anyone is going to score on his line,” Courtney said. “And Eric is so fast, he brings a whole new dimension to our line – and I think we complement each other well.”
Thinel, who scored one goal in the first period and one in the second, said he already feels at ease with his linemates.
“This was an awesome win, and I’m happy our line could contribute,” Thinel said. “We all know Courtney can score, and Castonguay played with my brother in Europe. I have not played with him until this season, and I already feel like he’s been a teammate for a long time. We are all comfortable playing with each other.”
Just 1:46 into the first period, Denver’s Robin Soudek scored to give the Cutthroats a short-lived 1-0 lead.
“We’ve come from behind before this season, and that wasn’t really a concern,” Mavericks coach Scott Hillman said. “We knew the energy we got from the crowd would spark the boys. It’s early, but this was our third game in four nights in three different cities. We needed our fans tonight.”
Two minutes after the Denver goal, Thinel knotted it 1-1 on assists from Courtney and Evan Vossen.
John-Scott Dickson gave the Mavs the lead for good when he scored at the 11:48 mark. Courtney followed with his first, an unassisted goal at 18:29 to give Missouri a 3-1 lead, but Denver’s Vincent Arsenau countered just 25 seconds later to cut the deficit to one.
Courtney and Thinel scored goals 10 minutes apart in the second period and Courtney followed with his hat-trick and hamburger goal at the 17:11 mark in the third.
“This win means a lot to us,” Hillman said. “It’s a great way to end a stretch of three games in four days and it’s even better to reward our fans with a win – and hamburgers.”
Nearly lost in the excitement of Courtney’s big night was another stellar performance in the net by Shane Owen, who stopped 31 of 33 shots and lowered his goals-against average to 1.71, second in the CHL only to Rapid City’s Tim Boron (1.62).
“What impresses me about Shane is his athletic ability in the net and the way nothing rattles him,” Hillman said. “He gave up that first goal, and still had confidence. And that translates to his teammates. They see him stand tall in the net and want to play even harder for him.”
Owen hopes to join the ranks of successful past Maverick goalies like Charlie Effinger (team MVP), Robbie Nolan (top goalie in CHL) and Mike Clemente (most CHL regular-season wins last season).
“I’ve heard they were great goalies,” Owen said, “but I want to make a name for myself. And I want to play here a long time. I think this is the start of something special.”