One would expect the mood to be bright and sunny inside the Missouri Mavericks locker room.
The fifth-year squad is off to the best start in team history and has earned five points in its last six games, but you could never tell it by talking to coach Scott Hillman or his team captain, Sebastien Thinel.
“The boys in the locker room are not happy right now, and it's because we failed to get two points in our last game,” said Hillman, referring to a 3-2 shootout loss to rival Wichita last Saturday at the Independence Events Center.
“We found a way to win Friday night (4-3 against Tulsa), but didn't get the two points we had hoped for Saturday. The mood in the locker room isn't one of, ‘We're 12-3-1 and in second place with 25 points,’ it's more like, ‘We lost our last game and we have to find a way to win Thursday.’”
The Mavericks board a bus today for Wichita, and Thinel and his teammates can't wait for the opportunity to claim some revenge against the 4-11-4 Thunder.
“None of us are very happy right now, because we're all thinking about that loss Saturday,” Thinel said. “If the games had been reversed, and we had won Saturday and lost Friday, we might be feeling better, but we have to find a way to win every time we go out on the ice.
“We've gotten off to the best start since I've been here, and that's exciting. The past two seasons, we have had to play so well at the end, because we didn't get off to good starts. This year, with 25 points after the first 16 games, we are in a good position to make a run at the championship – and getting home ice in the playoffs is so important.”
The Mavericks finished in fifth place last season, with the top four teams enjoying home ice in postseason play.
“Scott told us early on in preseason that games early on count as much as games later in the season, and we paid attention to that,” Thinel added. “We're off to a good start, but we have not been playing as well lately as we played early on.
“We have had four days to work on some things, eliminate some mistakes, and we're excited about playing in Wichita in Thursday.”
Hillman wants Maverick fans to know it is not all doom and gloom in the locker room or on the ice at practice, despite the loss Saturday night.
“We have 25 points after our first 16 games, and we'll take those same 25 points over the next 16 games,” the coach said. “It's just that we've made some mistakes in the past few games and the scores have been much closer than we felt they should be.
“But we've dedicated the past four days to cleaning up the mistakes. And you have to realize, a lot of the boys in that locker room just finished their first 16 games as a pro. I can see the team getting closer, developing more chemistry and playing much better hockey as the season goes on.”
Goaltender Shane Owen is second in the CHL with a 2.27 goals against average and Thinel is eighth in scoring with 23 points.