This was one that makes a coach or player wipe his brow and give a “Phew!” of relief.
The Missouri Mavericks scored two goals in the first 2:31 Friday against the visiting Tulsa Oilers, added a short-handed goal later in the opening period while killing a five-minute penalty, added an empty-net goal in the final minute and needed every one of those send the Independence Events Center crowd home happy with a 4-3 victory.
After taking a pass from Dave Pszenyczny, Matt Stephenson deked a defender and appeared to clinch the win for the Mavericks (12-3) with his empty-net goal with 55 seconds left. But Scott Macauley gave the crowd a pause by poking in a goal with six seconds remaining.
“I’ve played a long time, and I know those goals are huge,” the sixth-year pro Stephenson said of the empty-netter, his second goal of the evening. “I’ve seen where after that a (trailing) team scores in the final seconds. It kind of solidifies it.”
The Oilers, who entered having won 10 of 12 after a seven-game losing skid to open the season were tied with the Mavericks for third in the Central Hockey League (22 points, two behind first-place Rapid City), couldn’t generate a possible tying shot off the faceoff.
“It was a frustrating game,” Mavericks coach Scott Hillman said. “We were playing real well, and the breakaway was about all they had in the first. Then we take a bad penalty and give them a goal. We kill a five-minute penalty and squander a five-minute power play by taking two penalties.
“That’s a heck of a team. They’ve been beating everybody, so it’s a great win.” Hillman’s team needed just 1:08 to gain an upper hand. From the right boards, John-Scott Dickson simply flung a puck toward the net, where it bounced off the pads of Ross MacKinnon and into the net. Evan Vossen and Obi Aduba were credited with assists.
“They rimmed it around. I wasn’t trying to score, just to get it to the net,” Dickson said of sixth goal this season. “Sebby (Sebastien Thinel) gets those all the time. When I got to the bench I said I had ‘Sebbied’ it.”
Thinel got his own goal just 1:23 later. Andrew Courtney gained a Tulsa turnover at center ice and flipped ahead for a Thinel breakaway, which he converted with a wrister that trickled underneath MacKinnon.
“We wanted to start strong,” Hillman said. “We needed something early, because we hadn’t played that well the last few games. The first period was the best period we’ve had a few weeks.”
It could’ve been marred when Courtney was given a game misconduct on top of his five-minute boarding penalty that left Eric Tallent woozily skating to the bench after a couple minutes on the ice.
But the Mavericks took advantage of an odd-man opportunity, as Thinel zipped a pass to Stephenson for a goal. On just 10 shots, the Mavs had a 3-0 lead. Eric Castonguay also got an assist.
“I saw they had all three forwards low, saw I let Eric know we had a chance to go,” Stephenson said. I drove the net – those two guys are skill guys, so I figured I’ll let them play with the puck.”
Tulsa got back to 3-1 when Todd Robinson broke free from center ice and unleashed a slap shot above Shane Howe’s shoulder at 16:25.
That score nearly stood through the second period, but a Saverio Posa penalty for delay of game (he lost his stick, and his glove-flip sent the puck into the crowd) put the Oilers on the power play with 1:40 left, and they converted with just seven seconds left in the period on Ben Gordon’s slapper from the blue line.
After being out-shot 24-10 in the first two periods, Tulsa had a 13-4 advantage in the final period, and Shane Madolora saved all 17 shots after replacing MacKinnon following Stephenson’s short-handed goal. They also escaped having to kill Kyle Bochek’s five-minute boarding penalty when the Mavericks took Colt King’s slashing and Posa’s high-sticking penalties actually left Missouri at 4-on-3 disadvantage for 1:44.
But Howe (20 saves) and the defense stood tall save for the game’s waning seconds.
“He made some big timely saves,” Hillman said of Howe. “The third period he had a lot of action, and he made enough saves for us to win.”
Dickson said the suffered a letup after its fast start.
“We had a little lapse,” he said. “Giving up a goal, whether it’s even strength or a penalty kill, is always big at the end of the period. We’ve got to learn to keep going, keep going.”
BINGO WITH THE MAVERICKS: Missouri Mavericks players will be calling bingo games and waiting tables Tuesday at Lee’s Summit VFW as part of a fundraiser for Hope House’s domestic violence services and shelter.
The event, which is being sponsored by Verizon Wireless, is 6 to 9 p.m. at the VFW, 329 S.E. Douglas St., Lee’s Summit. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for children younger than 12 and can be purchased in advance at www.hopehouse.net or at the door.