It wasn't exactly a “Miracle on Ice,” but the Missouri’s 3-1 victory over the Quad City Mallards at the sold-out Independence Events Center Saturday night put the Mavericks in a three-way tie for first place in the Central Hockey League.
With Ken Morrow, Buzz Schneider, Dave Christian and team captain Mike Eruzione – all members of the 1980 U.S. “Miracle on Ice” hockey team that won the gold medal (please see related story) – watching, the Mavericks turned in a performance for the ages.
“This might be the best game of the season,” said Hillman, who challenged his team following a disappointing 4-2 loss to Denver Friday night in which the Mavericks blew an early 2-0 lead. “We had to make some changes, do some things differently and the boys really responded. I couldn't be prouder of the team. This is a big win – but they're all big from here on out.”
Quad City took an early 1-0 lead on a Vladimir Nikoforov power-play goal, but the Mavericks responded when Eric Castonguay scored at the 18:18 mark of the first period off assists from Sebastien Thinel and Mike Ramsay.
“It was so important to score in the first period and give our fans something to cheer about, get them back in the game,” Hillman said when asked about Castonguay’s goal. “He’s scored some big goals this season – and none bigger than that one.”
Much like the unsung heroes of the 1980 Olympic team, Evan Vossen then gave the Mavericks a 2-1 lead off a perfect feed from rookie Tyler Currier, whose family surprised him this weekend and flew in from Anchorage, Alaska, to watch the weekend series.
“Voss is a role player who knows his role very well – play solid defense when he’s asked to be on the blue line – and lately, he's scored some very important goals,” Hillman said. “Once he gave us that 2-1 lead, I knew the boys would find a way to hold on for the win.”
Vossen, who has scored goals in four consecutive games, downplayed his role in the win.
“We all played well tonight,” Vossen said, “I just happened to score the go-ahead goal. We were all disappointed after the lost Friday night. I think everyone, including Coach, expected us to come out and really turn in a good performance tonight.”
The 2-1 lead held until the 31-second mark of the third period when Trevor Kell found the back of the open net to account for the final score, as Quad City pulled goaltender Ty Rimmer with 1:38 left in the game.
Shane Owen, who leads the CHL with 21 wins, was a standout in the net, stopping 33 of 34 shots.
“After they scored that first goal, I knew that had to be it, I wasn’t going to give up another goal,” Owen said. “It was a big win. It was just a great night with the Olympians here, another sold-out crowd and Pink in the Rink Night for (the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation).
“Now, we just have to keep building on big wins like this. We can’t afford any type of losing streaks for the rest of the season.”
The Mavericks wore specially designed pink-themed jerseys that were auctioned off after the game. Much of the proceeds went to the Susan G. Komen Foundation to fight breast cancer.