It's far too early in the season to call Saturday night's 2-1 victory over visiting Arizona a must win, however, coach Scott Hillman and the Missouri Mavericks admitted the team was in desperate need of a big win and some renewed confidence.
“This win was gigantic because we had to find a way to win,” Hillman said after his third-place squad improved to 13-5-1, good enough for third place in the Central Hockey League with 27 points. “We had that (8-6) loss at Wichita Thursday, then came home and lost 2-1 (to the Thunder).
“We needed a win tonight in the worst way, and the boys went out and found a way to get it.”
The Mavericks had lost three straight overall and two in a row at home, and now hope to add to Saturday night's win with a victory at 7:05 tonight against the same Sundogs team at the Independence Events Center.
“We need back-to-back wins because we have a stretch with a lot of home games and we have to take advantage of that,” forward Colt King said. “Coach says that two points are as big early in the season as they are late in the season, so we're going to do everything we can to get that win (tonight).”
Shane Owen, who was in the net in that 8-6 loss last Thursday, stopped 32 of 33 Sundog shots to claim the win Saturday as Mike Ramsay and Andrew Courtney provided just enough offense to end the skid.
“We put some pressure on our goalies after Thursday night,” Hillman admitted. “You can't give up seven goals (one was an empty-netter), and Shane knows that. He came back and had an outstanding game, much like Joe (Howe) had in the (2-1 loss Friday).
“We knew we'd get a strong performance, and Shane went out and played a great game.”
The first-year Mavericks goalie said he didn't put added pressure on himself following last week's debacle at Wichita.
“I feel good, real good,” Owen said after Saturday’s win. “I had to go out and redeem myself, and I was able to do that thanks to some great play by the boys in front of the net.
“Colten (Hayes) was blocking shots all over the place, and the boys were playing hard. Once we got the lead in the third period, there was no way we were letting them get back in the game.”
Arizona's Alex Tuckerman gave the Sundogs a 1-0 lead early in the second period, but Ramsay, who had been on team leave dealing with his wife's pregnancy, returned to knot the score at 1-all with just 1:04 left in the second period.
Courtney then scored his team-high 10th goal midway through the third period on assists from Trevor Kell and Dave Pszenyczny to give the Mavericks the win.
“We lost a tough one last night and needed this win,” Courtney said. “We played well in that game, but playing well doesn't give you any points if you lose – so we had to find a way to come out and win tonight.
“Owen was great in the net, and the team played really well defensively. If we keep playing like this, we're going to get a lot of wins this season.”
Ramsay agreed, adding, “This is a nice win, the type of win – the type of game – Scott likes us to play. Owen was outstanding in the net, and Joe did a great job Friday.
“I'll admit that there was pressure out there tonight because we'd lost three in a row, and we can't do that and hope to be one of the top teams in the league. The confidence we got from this win is huge, and now we need to add to it and get another win Tuesday.”