It was business as usual at the Independence Events Center Wednesday morning as the Missouri Mavericks went through their final practice session before hopping on the team bus today for a long ride to Allen, Texas, where they will play the Americans at 7 p.m. Friday.
“We go to their place Friday then turn right around and head home for a game on our ice (at 7 p.m.) Saturday,” Mavericks coach Scott Hillman said. “I think we’re back to the point where we’re playing like we played early in the season during that 8-0 streak.
“We hit a bump, lost three in a row (to Wichita) and came back and got two wins against Arizona. Now, we need to find a way to keep the winning streak alive against a very good Allen team.”
Second-place Missouri takes a two-game winning streak and 14-5-1 record (29 points) to Allen to face a 12-7-2 American squad that is in fourth place, three points behind the Mavericks.
“The way we’ve played the last couple of games reminds me of the way we played early in the season when we were playing our best hockey,” said Mavericks goaltender Shane Owen, who is 12-3 and has a 2.43 goals against average.
“The defense has been amazing. Guys are flying all over the ice, blocking shots with their bodies, taking care of business in front of the net. We’ve gone three games in a row without allowing more than two goals, and it’s because of the great defense we’re playing.”
Following last Thursday’s 8-6 loss at Wichita, Hillman challenged his team and the Mavericks accepted it. They dropped a 2-1 game to the Thunder Friday with Joe Howe in the net, but rebounded to top the Sundogs 2-1 Saturday and 5-1 Tuesday night.
“We’re playing well, offensively and defensively,” said team captain Sebastien Thinel, who had four assists in the 5-1 victory. “When we lost the three games to Wichita, we weren’t playing with much confidence, but the confidence is back and so are the wins.”
Hillman was thrilled to see Thinel return to the form that allowed him to win the CHL scoring title and league MVP honors last season.
“Before Tuesday night, Simon (Watson) and I were talking and it had been three games since Sebbie had scored a point,” Hillman said. “I don’t know if he went three games all last season without a goal or an assist in a game.
“He did such a great job setting up (Eric) Castonguay (who had two goals). We expected big things from that line this season, and they are really jelling and playing well together.”
While the team confidence has returned, a black cloud hovers over the Mavericks as they await the fate of enforcer Colt King, who got into a one-punch altercation with Arizona’s Garrett Clarke, knocking him to the ice with just 49 seconds left in Tuesday’s game.
Clarke, who had been called for instigating, a major fighting and fighting/instigator misconduct in the second period, was strapped to a backboard and taken off the ice on a gurney after King’s KO punch.
“Clarke slashed Kinger’s stick out of his hands,” Hillman said Tuesday. “If you do that to a fighter, you better expect a fight. Kinger dropped his gloves and threw a punch – but it ended with a bad result.
“You never want to see someone taken off the ice on a stretcher. But he challenged Kinger, and Kinger didn’t back away. Kinger will never back away.”
King was given an attempt to injure/match and match penalty/major.
“We have not heard from the league about any type of action against Kinger,” Hillman said Wednesday afternoon. “If something comes down, it will be later (Wednesday) or early Thursday. I can’t comment on anything because I have no idea what the league will do.”