A three-win weekend had turned into a six-point lead for the Missouri Mavericks as they managed to put even more distance between themselves and their closest rivals.
After a 5-2 road victory over the Allen Americans Friday, the Mavericks returned to the Independence Events Center and made it through a fight-marred game for another 5-2 victory Saturday night.
The Quad City Mallards flew into the Events Center Sunday afternoon, and the Mavericks came away with their third consecutive 5-2 triumph.
Entering Monday’s games, Missouri (31-13-2) stood atop the CHL with 64 points, followed by Denver (58), Rapid City (57) and Allen and Quad City (56 each).
Both home games were sold out this weekend and the Mavericks have now sold out eight games in a row at home and lead the league with 13 sellouts on the season.
“It's so much fun to play when the barn is full of our fans,” said defenseman Dave Pszenyczny, who scored a key fourth goal Sunday after Quad City's Gabriele Levesque had cut the Mallards' deficit to 3-2 on a power-play goal with just over two minutes left. “I get credit for the goal, but that was all Rammer (Mike Ramsay) and Sebbie (Sebastien Thinel, who both assisted on the goal). They see things other players don't see – they make passes you can't believe.
“They and Casty (Eric Castonguay) make the passes that make a guy like me look good. I don't know how they do it. I'm just glad they are on our side.”
Quad City took a 1-0 lead Sunday when Matt Boyd deflected the puck past Mavericks goalie Shane Owen at the 12:55 mark of the first period. Owen faced just three more shots in the period, but the Mallards took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission.
Ramsay then scored just 26 seconds into the second period and rookie Anders Franzon followed with a goal 44 seconds later to give the Mavericks the lead and momentum.
The only offense the Mallards could manage in the second period was a penalty shot attempt by Levesque that Owen batted away. Former Mallard Obi Aduba then scored a goal against his former team for a 3-1 lead.
Levesque’s goal made it 3-2 game before Pszenyczny's goal with 1:35 left sealed the win. Castonguay made it three consecutive 5-2 wins with an empty-netter with 1:11 left.
“This was a big, big weekend with the three 5-2 wins over two very good teams,” Mavericks coach Scott Hillman said. “We'll give the boys tomorrow off, then get ready for Quad City (Wednesday in Moline, Ill.) and Denver (Friday and Saturday in Denver).
“This past offseason we said this could be the most solid team we have had in the five years we've been here in Independence, and it's looking like that is the case,” the coach added. “We brought back the strongest group of players from last year's team and everyone is on the same page this season.
“We have made very few changes among the forwards, and all the moves we have made on the blue line have strengthened the team. And the chemistry is noticeable on the ice and in the locker room.”
Trevor Kell, who scored two goals for the second night in a row against the Americans, said that chemistry was never more apparent than in Saturday night's 5-2 victory against Allen in a game that featured 156 penalty minutes.
Kell said the Americans tried to take advantage of Mavericks without enforcer Colt King, who sat out the game in the press box with a lower body injury.
“They're a different team when we don't have Colt,” Kell said. “Tonight they were all chirpy and going after guys. Obi (Aduba) stepped it up big time for us tonight – everyone stepped it up big time. I was proud of the way we stood up for each other – we're a team, and we proved it tonight.”
The bad blood started early when Allen goaltender Mark Guggenberger knocked down Mavericks mascot Mac during the pregame introductions. The Central Hockey League announced Monday that Guggenberger would be fined for the incident.
“We have tape of the incident,” said Mac's handler, Andrew Johnson. “I've never seen anything like that before, never.”
The CHL also announced Monday that Allen coach Steve Martinson was fined for “unprofessional and unaccepted conduct as a coach in the CHL,” and the CHL also suspended Allen forward Garrett Klotz for two games.
The CHL said Klotz received a game misconduct and subsequent suspension for returning to the ice after being ordered off by a linesman (rule 70.6) and he also received a misconduct for “continuing to fight” (rule 46.5) during a brawl at the 18:51 mark of the third period.
The Americans finished with 21 infractions that resulted in 91 penalty minutes, while Mavericks totaled 65 penalty minutes on 16 penalties in the game.
“You know what happened tonight?” Hillman asked. “They came out on the ice and saw Colt King out of the lineup and they grew about two inches taller. And they found out our boys could hold their ground. I was proud of our boys.”
The final two minutes of the game turned ugly as several fights broke out that led to 96 combined penalty minutes being handed out to the Americans and Mavericks from the 18:51 mark until the end of the game.
Kell and Ramsay scored two goals apiece for the Mavericks for the second night in a row, and backup goalie Erno Suomalainen stopped 28 shots to get the victory in just his fourth start.
“I'm really proud of the way the team battled tonight,” Suomalainen said of the Mavericks, who rallied from a 2-1 deficit to score four goals in the third period, including a pair of power-play goals by Ramsay. “I found out today I was starting and I was very excited, but I was also a little apprehensive because I had not played for two weeks.
“We played hard, we had a full house and we did what we needed to do to win.”
Suomalainen even had the opportunity to get in on the fisticuffs as he was challenged by Guggenberger, but he declined, explaining later, “No, I want to live.”
That comment brought a smile to the face of Ramsay, who finished the weekend with five goals.
“We don't need Erno fighting,” said Ramsay, who has become one of the Mavs' top threats. “We just need him to play in goal – like he did tonight – for the rest of the season.”
Missouri has just one more home game this month, and it is against the Americans. Allen will visit the Events Center at 7:05 p.m. Feb. 25 in a makeup date from a game that was postponed due to a snowstorm.