When asked if losing two games to the expansion Brampton Beast would lead to a lost weekend for his Missouri Mavericks, coach Scott Hillman simply said, “A lost four points – that's for sure.”
After losing 4-3 Friday night, the Mavericks followed the same script Saturday at the Independence Events Center, where Brampton scored early and Scott Howes dominated the game for a second night in a row to lead the Canadian team to a 7-4 victory.
“Howes scored two goals Friday and four tonight, and we don't even have anyone checking him,” a frustrated Hillman said after his team fell to 20-9-1 and failed to make up any ground on first-place Rapid City (22-7), as the Rush also lost two games over the weekend.
“That's like leaving Sebbie (Mavericks captain Sebastien Thinel) unchecked in front of the net. Unacceptable, just unacceptable. We're going to have to look into making some changes. I don't know what they will be at this time, but we can't keep playing like this. We have too much at stake this season.”
Howes, a former East Coast Hockey League MVP, scored two quick goals for the Beast Saturday night as a crowd of 4,944 tried to figure out what was happening.
Suddenly, the Mavericks’ offense came to life. Dave Pszenyczny scored on a power play shot from 20 feet out to get Missouri on the scoreboard.
Then, 36 seconds later, Eric Castonguay scored on a textbook breakaway goal. Andrew Courtney got in on the act and scored a third goal just 20 seconds after that, and the Mavericks had a 3-2 lead in a span of 56 seconds.
“At that point,” Hillman said, “things were looking up. But we failed to take care of the job defensively. The game was far from over.”
Howes, who finished the two games with seven points, opened the second period much like he did the first, with a strong ice presence and two more goals.
The Mavericks’ penalty kill unit came through on 1:19 of 5-on-3 hockey, and they eventually tied the score at 4-all on Evan Vossen’s goal from Thinel and Castonguay at the 18:04 mark.
But Brampton took control in the third. Andrew Fournier’s unassisted goal was followed by a pair by former NHL player Rob Collins, including an empty-netter with 1:06 left.
“We have to work on a lot of things this week to get ready for another big weekend series at home with Rapid City coming to town,” Hillman said, referring to 7:05 p.m. Friday and Saturday games against the first-place Rush at the Events Center. “The boys always get up for the Rush, and it should be a great weekend of hockey. But we have to make some big improvements before the series, and we have an entire week to get that done.”
Shane Owen, the CHL Goaltender of the Month for December, had a tough weekend against the Beast, allowing 10 goals in the two games to drop from second to fourth place with a 2.59 goals-against average.
“Shane didn't have a lot of help out there this weekend,” Hillman said. “Friday night could have been much worse as he made some outstanding saves.”
SMITH’S STATUS UNKNOWN: The Mavericks are not certain how much longer forward Brandon Smith will remain with the team.
Smith, who played the last two seasons in Missouri before leaving professional hockey for a private business venture, played the last three games with Missouri as the team was shorthanded because of illness and injury. Hillman said a decision will be made in the near future.