RAPID CITY, S.D. – Scott Hillman didn't need much time to find out how his Missouri Mavericks squad would respond to their first loss of the season.
Following Friday night's 4-3 loss to the Rapid City Rush, the only undefeated team in the CHL, the Mavericks responded with a 3-2 victory Saturday night that allowed Hillman's team to split the two-game series in Rapid City.
“After we lost that game Friday night, we had an angry locker room,” Hillman said. “It was like the boys hadn't won a game all season. I knew Saturday's game would be intense, and it was.”
Colt King scored two goals to give him three for the series, Sebastien Thinel scored a goal, Trevor Kell had two assists and Shane Owen stopped 44 of 45 shots to help Missouri improve to 9-1-0 while the 10-1-0 Rush fell a game short of the longest win streak in CHL history.
“Look who scored our goals,” Hillman said, “the guys who play their best hockey in the biggest games. Sebbie and Kinger were just outstanding, and Shane came back from his first loss of the season with fire in his eyes.
“He was tremendous in the net. Just a big, big win for the boys.”
King scored early in the first period off a rebound of a Kell shot, and Thinel made it 2-0 with a goal late in the period on assists from Andrew Courtney and Matt Stephenson.
The Mavericks fought through three penalty kills in the second period and padded the score to 3-0 on King’s power-play goal from Kell and Anders Franzon at the 8:52 mark.
“Our penalty-kill and power-play units got it done in a big way,” Hillman said.
Rapid City scored two third-period goals – Winston Day Chief an even-strength goal and Jesse Schultz on a power play at 15:39 – to cut the deficit to one, but the Mavericks stood tall with Owen taking command in the net despite Missouri being shorthanded in the final minutes of regulation.
“A team win, a character win,” Hillman said by phone Sunday as the team stayed over in Rapid City, where it practiced Monday morning before heading to Colorado for tonight's game against the Denver Cutthroats.
MAVERICK SUSPENDED AGAIN: Mavericks defenseman Dave Pszenyczny has been suspended for the second time this season.
The CHL suspended Pszenyczny for three games for a hit to the head on a Rush player Friday night. He will not return to action until Nov. 23 when Missouri plays host to the cross-state rival St. Charles Chill.
“Dave is a passionate player who stands up for his teammates,” Hillman said. “We are not surprised by the suspension, but we as a team are very disappointed. He is serving his second three-game suspension, and he knows he can't let that happen again.
“He's a bright guy who made a poor decision. We'll have to find a way to get through the next two games without him. The boys really responded without him Saturday. You just had that feeling we were going to win the game when you walked into our locker room. It was a determined bunch of Maverick players.”
The Mavericks return home to the Independence Events Center Friday for the first of back-to-back games against St. Charles.