WICHITA, Kan. – Sometime during the three-hour bus trip back to Independence, Missouri Mavericks coach Scott Hillman hopes to figure out what happened Thursday night in a mind-numbing 8-6 loss to the Wichita Thunder at Intrust Bank Arena.
“We were terrible for the first eight minutes of the first period and terrible in the third,” Hillman said after the Mavericks blew a 5-3 lead to the Thunder. “Our penalty kill unit didn't get it done, and it was just ridiculous what happened in the third period.”
The Thunder took a 3-0 lead against the Mavericks in the first 20 minutes, only to see the Mavericks score 16 seconds into the second period on a Trevor Kell goal.
The fun was just starting for the 12-4-1 Mavericks, as Colton Hayes and John-Scott Dickson followed with goals to knot the score at 3-all at 7:03. Dave Pszenyczny then gave the Mavs their first lead of the night on his first goal of the season at 8:17, and just 11 seconds later Eric Castonguay padded that lead to 5-3 at the 8:28 mark.
Then, the bottom fell out for the Mavericks, as Hillman compared the collapse to being stuck in an out-of-control roller coaster.
“It's hard to explain how you feel after one like that,” Hillman said, refusing to back down from any question. “It was a bit like a roller-coaster ride – unfortunately more downs than ups.”
While the Thunder have appeared in the past two CHL championship series, they have struggled this season with a 5-11-4 record - and two of those wins have come back come back-to-back against the Mavericks (who lost in a 3-2 shootout Saturday night at the Events Center).
When asked if his team was playing down to the competition this season, Hillman was quick to disagree.
“No, we're not playing down the level of competition – they don't have the record they've had in the past, but that is still a very good hockey team,” Hillman said. “Every team in this league this season is a good team, and you have to go out and work hard to get a win.
“We played well in the second period tonight, very well. But the first and third periods were painful to watch. We have a lot to think about and work on before tomorrow night.”
In a quirk of CHL scheduling, the Thunder and Mavericks hook up for a third-consecutive game at 7:05 tonight at the Events Center.
“I would hope the boys would come out with a vengeance,” the coach said. “They don't want to play like they did tonight in the first and third periods at home, and we hope to never see them play like that for the rest of the season.
“This team was upset following last Saturday's shootout loss at home. The last period they have to think about was tonight's third period, and it was utterly embarrassing. We get (forward Andrew) Courtney back tomorrow night, and maybe that will provide a needed spark.”
Wichita's Thomas Klempa, Jesse Dudas, Matt Robinson, Jared Walker and Dudas (empty net) all scored in the third period. Missouri's Obi Aduba scored the Mavericks' final goal.
Shane Owen was in the net for the Mavericks and saw his goals against average rise from 2.27 to 2.66. He entered the game with the second-best average in the CHL and now has the fourth-best.