The Missouri Mavericks passed the midway point of the season during their three-games-three-different-cities weekend that began with a big win at Tulsa, followed by an overtime loss to Wichita at home and a regulation loss to the Thunder on their home ice Sunday.
That left the Mavericks with three out of a total of six possible points, a 22-11-1 record (46 points), good for third place in the league behind Rapid City (25-10-0, 50 points) and Allen (23-10-4, 50 points).
While the Mavericks have struggled over the past two weeks, they know the most important games lie ahead as they begin a quest to finish among the top four teams in the league so they can secure home-ice advantage in the playoffs.
As we examine the first half of the season, it’s time to honor some personal standouts at the midway point of the season. Let’s see how they fare in the second half.
Offensive newcomer of the first half: Eric Castonguay is everything coach Scott Hillman advertised, as he is one of those rare players who makes everyone else on the ice a better player. He is second on the team with 37 points.
Defensive newcomer of the first half: Matt Stephenson leads the team in plus-minus rating (plus-16), blocked shots, bruised body parts and true grit. He is a leader on and off the ice, and his presence is felt even when he’s not in the game. He anchors the league’s best penalty kill unit and is part of the power play squad. He is a true leader and perhaps the biggest addition to the team.
Biggest surprise the first half: Defenseman Sebastien Thinel? We all know Thinel is Picasso on skates. He is two goals short of becoming just the sixth player in CHL history with 300 in his career and he is the reigning CHL MVP and scoring champion. With the team strapped by penalties, illness and injury, he has been asked to play defense and he has been a standout. The same could be said for fellow forward Evan Vossen, who like Thinel, stars at any position he is asked to play.
MVP of the first half: This one is a no-brainer. Shane Owen is second in the league with an 18-8-1 record, was the CHL Goaltender of the Month for December and is continuing the Mavericks' iron-man goalie tradition established by Charlie Effinger and Mike Clemente. He has a 2.71 goals against average and has been on the wrong side of some recent scores, but continues to maintain a positive approach and work ethic that inspires his teammates.
Top rookie of the first half: I have to split this vote between Olympian Henrik Odegaard and Anders Franzon. They both have developed a presence on the ice, with Franzon being the more offensive-minded defenseman with 15 points, including the first goal of the season. Odegaard, who leaves for Sochi, Russia, Feb. 2 or 3 to play for Norway’s Olympic team, is the lone Olympian in the CHL.
12th Man Award for the first half: Another no-brainer – the Orange Army. The Mavericks lead the CHL in overall attendance (96,266) and average per game (5,348). Twice this season the Mavericks have maxed out at 5,900 because of the sale of standing room tickets, and it’s easy to see that after five seasons, the love affair between the Mavericks and Eastern Jackson County is as strong as ever.