RAPID CITY, S.D. – The Missouri Mavericks have a chance to take out the broom and gain a surprising sweep of the first-place Rush with a win tonight after they claimed a 4-3 victory Friday night over first-place Rapid City at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Arena.
The win gives Missouri back-to-back wins over the Rush, a 19-6-1 record and 39 points, while 40-5 Rapid City stays at 40 points.
“Tomorrow, we’re playing for first place, and that should really energize the boys,” coach Scott Hillman said by phone after the game. “I thought we played with much more energy than Rapid City, which says a lot for the players on this team.
“Last night, we were two men down and had 14 skaters on the ice. Today, Trevor Kell flew to Rapid City – and tells you what this team means to him, because he has been battling an illness – and he played some key shifts.
“No one thought about a sweep before this series started. We wanted to leave Rapid City after cutting into their first-place lead. Now, we have the chance to move into first place with a win Saturday.”
For the second night in a row, Shane Owen was big, stopping 24 of 27 shots in the net, and team captain and reigning CHL MVP and scoring leader Sebastien Thinel scored the game-winner 51 seconds into the third period.
“There was a real sense of urgency after we took the lead on Sebbie’s goal, which was huge,” the coach said. “He had a hard shot that bounced into the net off one of their players. When we got that lead, you just had the feeling the Rush weren’t going to tie the game.
“And we had a couple of PK units that got the job done in the fourth quarter – and all night, for that matter. They were just 1 for 7 on the PK, and once again, our special teams did a great job as Sebbie’s goal came on a power play.”
Konrad Reeder gave the Rush a 1-0 lead at 1:47 of the first period, but Missouri’s Mike Ramsay scored two goals to help the Mavericks take a 2-1 lead into the second period.
“Mike is really becoming a part of the offense,” Hillman said. “All the guys are so comfortable in their roles. These past two games have been like playoff hockey, which is great, because the young guys will know what to expect when the playoffs roll around.”
Winston Day Chief and former Maverick Tristin Llewellyn then scored to give the Rush a 3-2 lead.
But the Mavericks knotted the score when rookie roommates teamed up for the game-tying goal. Tyler Currier, playing in just his third game, took a slap shot that ricocheted off Rush goalie Keaton Hartigan right to Anders Franzon, who fired in the rebound for the game-tying goal.
“Currier certainly doesn’t look like he’s just played three games,” Hillman said. “He played well last night and used his size and strength to muscle his way past the defense and get off that shot and Franzon finishes it off.”
And that set the stage for Thinel.
“We played well tonight, with more energy than last night,” the team captain said. “We came here thinking .500 would be good against a first-place team. Now, we’re going to do everything we can to get six points and come home in first place.
“We’re tired, but they looked tired, too. We have the energy and the momentum. Now, we have to find a way to play tomorrow like we have played the last two games.”