Goaltender Joe Howe, who had a 3-2-1 record and 2.52 goals-against average as a backup for the Missouri Mavericks this season, has left the Central Hockey League team to sign with the Cincinnati Cyclones of the East Coast Hockey League

The move caught Mavericks coach Scott Hillman and his squad by surprise.

Kind of blindsided by it, Hillman said Monday morning as Christmas tunes played in the background of the Mavericks locker room. I had no idea. Its a move we dont support, because we feel this is a lateral move. Were all for guys making big steps in their career, but not when it comes at the expense of your teammates at this time of the season.

Howe called Hillman Sunday and asked to visit with the coach in his office.

I respect Joe talking to me in person, Hillman said. We should have a new goalie in town within 48 hours which is a good thing. Im sure as news of this gets out, the phone will be ringing off the wall. But weve targeted someone who we think will fill in nicely on the team.

Shane Owen, the teams No. 1 goaltender who ranks second in the CHL in wins (12-4) and third in goals-against average (2.46), was surprised by the move.

I found out this morning when I read about it on Twitter, Owen said. Im happy for him and support him. We worked well together, and he did a great job when he started a game. We dont play again until Friday, so this is really no big deal to me.

I know Coach and the organization will bring in another good goaltender. Last season, our backup in the ECHL pulled a muscle and I played for two months, so as far as the possibility of not having a backup for a while, Im fine with that.