ALLEN, Texas – Sebastien Thinel picked the perfect time to score his 300th career goal.
It proved to be the game-winning goal Friday night as the Missouri Mavericks topped the host Allen Americans 5-2 to pad their first-place standing in the Central Hockey League.
The win, plus a Rapid City loss and a Denver victory, gives 29-13-2 Missouri 60 points and a four-point cushion over the three teams that are tied for second place at 56.
“It’s been a while since I scored, but I guess I picked a good time to score No. 300,” said Thinel, who is just the sixth player in CHL history to reach that milestone, said by phone Friday. “They say it is easy to get to the top, but hard to stay there – and I guess we are going to find out this weekend.
“We have a win in hand and now come home to play Allen again. And then we face Quad City (a team that has 54 points), so a lot can happen in the standings this weekend. It’s a big weekend and we are so happy to start it off with a big win on the road.”
The Mavericks are hoping for the top spot in the league as they would earn home ice throughout the playoffs. They have lost Game 7 of the semifinal playoff series on the road the past two seasons.
“We play well on the road, but we want home ice for the playoffs,” said Thinel, who had a goal and two assists Friday night. “If we have home ice in the playoffs, with our fans making so much noise, it could mean a big difference.
“We need our fans to come out and support us this weekend, and we know they will.”
Less than 100 tickets remained late Friday for Saturday’s 7:05 p.m. game against the Americans.
The Mavericks were first on the scoreboard Friday night as Trevor Kell jumped on a loose puck in front of an unguarded Allen net to score the lone goal of the first period.
“A big goal by Kell,” Mavericks coach Scott Hillman said. “The puck took a weird bounce and he was all over it.”
Alex Lavoie then scored the only goal of the second period to tie it 1-all going into the final period.
Kell struck again, 52 seconds into the third, tallying his third goal of the season and second of the night on a behind-the-back pass from Thinel.
“Thinel’s goal turned out to be game-winner, but his assist on Kell’s second goal is what makes him such a special player,” said Hillman, who played with Thinel with the Odessa (Texas) Jackalopes. “It was one of those goals where Sebbie set it up and Kell finished it.”
Thinel made it a 3-1 game at 7:22 of the third period on assists from Eric Castonguay and Mike Ramsay before Allen’s Daniel Tetrault cut the deficit to one when he managed to get the puck past Mavs goalie Shane Owen with less than six minutes left.
Castonguay then scored an insurance goal from Ramsay and Thinel to give Missouri a 4-2 lead just 31 seconds later. John-Scott Dickson found the back of an empty net to account for the final 5-2 score.
“Castonguay’s goal was huge and Rammer (Ramsay) and Thinel assisted on the goal,” Hillman said. “Big, big plays by big-play makers.
“We won tonight, which is huge, but it doesn’t mean as much if we don’t come home and take care of business. We’ve done it in the past – won big on the road and then not been able to get a big win at home. The boys are excited to be in first place. We are playing some great hockey.
“Owen was outstanding tonight,” he added of the goaltender, who stopped 34 of 36 shots. “He was in the middle of a couple of scrums, and I don’t know how Allen didn’t score. Everyone is taking their game up a notch, and we need to do it two more games this weekend.”
The win was the 24th this season for Owen, who leads all CHL goalies in victories (24-10, 2.53 goals against average).
The Mavericks will have veteran forward Andrew Courtney back Saturday and Sunday. He missed the past two games because of a league suspension for a major boarding penalty in last Saturday’s game against Allen.