ALLEN, Texas – Missouri coach Scott Hillman knows his team is going to be a player down over the next seven games because of Colt King’s recent suspension.
However, Hillman does not see that as a disadvantage.
“In fact, I see it as an opportunity,” the coach said after Missouri took an early 2-0 lead and went on to claim a 5-2 victory Friday night over the Allen Americans. “A player is going to get extra minutes with Kinger’s suspension, and that player is Rob Kleebaum.
“And he really had a great game tonight.”
The rookie forward scored the second and fifth goals of the game – his sixth and seventh of the season – and played like a veteran, according to his coach.
“You couldn’t tell Kleebaum was a rookie by the way he played tonight,” Hillman said. “At times, he reminded me of (former CHL all-star forward) Nick Sirota. Kleebaum is fast, athletic and a great skater. He was given an opportunity tonight, and he made the most of it.”
The win puts the Mavericks alone in second place with 31 points and a 15-5-1 record. Rapid City (17-3-0, 34 points) is in first place.
“We needed to come to Allen and make a statement tonight,” Hillman said. “We led 1-0 after one period then 2-0 going into the third period.
“They scored a couple of goals, including a power play goal, but the boys scored three times – with Kleebaum getting his second (goal) – and I felt like we controlled the game from the opening minutes. The first period was just unbelievable. We outshot them 14-4.
“They caught up with us, but Joe Howe was outstanding in the net. We have as much confidence in Howe as we have in (Shane) Owen. They have both done a great job this season, and this is the second straight great performance by Howe and tonight the offense rewarded him with a victory.”
Sam Posa’s first-period goal gave the Mavericks a 1-0 lead, and Kleebaum’s first of the night made it 2-0 going into the final period.
Allen’s John Snowden scored just 53 seconds into the third period, but Trevor Kell helped Missouri regain a two-goal lead with a goal at 9:13.
However, Allen proved it had plenty of fight left as Darryl Bootland scored on a power play to make it a 3-2 game before Mike Ramsay scored on a power play and Kleebaum wrapped up his big night with his second goal of the evening at 15:45.
Page 2 of 2 - “The boys are excited about this win,” Hillman said. “Now, we have to come back home and find a way to get another two points Saturday night at the Events Center. I know the fans will help with their enthusiasm, and we’re going to need them to come out and support us against a very good team that is hungry for a win.”