A shootout loss can leave a team lamenting missed opportunities and multiple what-if moments.
Missouri Mavericks coach Scott Hillman was taking a more big-picture approach after his team’s 3-2 shootout loss at home Saturday to a Wichita Thunder team that had entered with just three wins.
The Mavericks salvaged a point despite playing without suspended forward Andrew Courtney and losing a 2-0 lead in a generally sluggish effort. With five points in three games at the Independence Events Center of the extended holiday weekend, Missouri (12-3-1) is tied for second in the Central Hockey League at 22 points, three behind Rapid City.
R.G. Flath’s netted the game-winner in Saturday’s shootout faking out Mavs goalie Joe Howe in the fourth round, and Taylor Nelson stopped Mike Ramsay’s fifth-round attempt to secure the Wichita victory.
Matt Robinson also scored in the shootout for the Thunder, answering the nifty backhand flip by Missouri’s Sebastien Thinel in the second round.
“It was just one of those days,” Hillman said after Saturday’s game. “There didn’t seem to be a lot of flow. It’s obvious when Courtney’s out, he’s a big cog and it’s tough to replace him. That’s our 10th game of suspension. It adds up on the guys that are playing.
“We’re probably lucky to get a point. Three games at home and we got five points. If we do that every three at home, we’ll be fine.”
Eric Castonguay gave the Mavericks the lead at 5:24 into the first, going top shelf to beat Nelson. Assists came from Rob Kleebaum and Thinel.
Kleebaum, fresh off a short stint on the injured list and taking Courtney’s spot on the top line, took a pass from Castonguay and made it 2-0 at 14:12.
“I thought he had a great game,” Hillman said of the rookie Kleebaum. “He’s had a great attitude since the day he walked in here.”
A Colten Hayes roughing penalty just 27 seconds later stifled that momentum, however, and Wichita’s Jon Booras converted on the power play at 15:02. Booras then tied it up at 17:42.
The Mavericks missed out on three power plays over the next two periods, and Nelson stone-walled clean breakaway chances by Kleebaum and Colt King in the third.
Howe, making his fourth start, stopped 31 of 33 shots on goal until coming up in the short end of the shootout. His record fell to 2-2, though his save percentage rose from .898 to .913.
“I don’t think he was pleased with the way he played his last two games,” Hillman said of Howe, “and this was something to build on.”
COURTNEY SUSPENDED: Courtney, who leads the Mavericks with nine goals and is third in points, served the first of a two-game suspension stemming from Friday’s first-period boarding penalty against Tulsa. His hit on the Oilers’ Eric Tallent also resulted in a game misconduct penalty and Tallent landing on the seven-day injured list.
Hillman’s initial reaction Friday was that Courtney’s hit shouldn’t result in a suspension, but upon further review he wasn’t caught off-guard by Saturday’s league action.
“After I watched it more closely, I wasn’t surprised,” Hillman said.
CURRIER SNAKE-BITTEN: Rookie forward Tyler Currier, who played his first game Wednesday after a freak lower-body injury suffered in the preseason, was scratched from Friday’s game and placed back on the seven-day injured list Saturday. Hillman said this ailment was unrelated to Currier’s previous injury and shouldn’t keep him out as long.
“He did everything we asked and worked his way back,” Hillman said. “It’s not as bad. He’ll be a good player; we’re not giving up on him yet.”