Following Wednesday night's 4-1 road victory over the St. Charles Chill, Missouri Mavericks coach Scott Hillman gave an honest opinion of this weekend's big home games against Denver and Quad City.
"They're only big if we win," Hillman said.
Well, the Mavericks shot themselves in the skates Friday night, letting a 2-0 first-period lead slip away as the Cutthroats scored once in the first and second periods to knot the score and then scored the game-winner 28 seconds into the third period on a goal by Robin Soudek.
"Unacceptable, just unacceptable," Hillman said of the 3-2 loss to the fourth-place Cutthroats at the Independence Events Center. "I can't tell you what we were supposed to do out there, but we didn't do it. The blue line has been playing so well, but tonight, there were some concerns.
“And our forwards were trying to make the fancy passes, instead of getting the puck deep – all the things we have been doing so well … well, it's just frustrating and it will be corrected."
The Mavericks dropped to 25-12-2 (52 points) overall and 11-7-2 at home, while Denver improved to 20-12-9 (49 points). The Quad City Mallards visit the Events Center at 7:05 p.m. Saturday in what Hillman calls a "must-win situation."
"If we want to stay in the middle of the pack, we can lose two in a row," Hillman said after the loss halted a three-game winning streak. "But if we want to challenge for the top, we can't afford to lose two games in a row. Tomorrow, we have to find a way to win."
Forward Evan Vossen, who has played both offense and defense during the team's struggles with illness, injury and suspension, agreed with his coach.
"We needed to win this game, and we started off well, then – well, I don't know – we didn't score on the 5-on-3, Sebbie (team captain Sebastien Thinel) misses the penalty shot and then hits the crossbar, and we give up the 4-on-4 goal. It just didn't go our way tonight,” said Vossen, who scored the second goal at the 15:09 mark of the first period with assists from Rob Kleebaum and Colten Hayes.
"But we play again in less than 24 hours, and that's big. We need to come back and get a big win tomorrow night."
Eric Castonguay gave Missouri a quick 1-0 lead as he scored off a Thinel assist at 5:31 of the first quarter. Vossen made it 2-0, but then the Mavericks’ offense disappeared.
Thinel, who is a goal away from becoming just the sixth player in CHL history to record 300 career goals, couldn't find the back of the net. The Mavericks then wasted a 1-minute, 57-second 5-on-3 advantage and failed to score on five power-play opportunities.
Compounding the problem could be the loss of rookie defenseman Henrik Odegaard, who plays his last game Saturday before leaving for Sochi, Russia, to play for Norway in the Winter Olympics.
"I want to go to the Olympics with a lot of confidence," said Odegaard, "so we have to win tomorrow. We have to clean a few things up. We were playing so well, and anytime you lose you are disappointed, but it is really disappointing to lose in front of a great crowd like this when the weather is so bad outside."
Hillman said Evan Zych, who is on the injured reserve list, will take Odegaard's spot on the roster.
"We have to play better on the blue line," Hillman emphasized. "We have to play smarter and do the things we've been doing that have made us successful up to this point of the season."