MOLINE, Ill. – The Missouri Mavericks won “their biggest game of the year,” claiming a hard-fought 2-1 road victory Wednesday night against the Quad City Mallards.
“Now, the next game we play will be the biggest,” quipped Mavericks coach Scott Hillman by phone after his team improved to 32-13-2 and padded its lead in the CHL standings. “I told you tonight was our biggest game of the year, and now, Friday is our biggest game of the year.”
Missouri sits atop the CHL with 66 points followed by Denver (60), Rapid City (59) Allen and Quad City (56 each). Missouri will travel from Moline to Denver to play the Cutthroats on Friday and Saturday.
With the victory Wednesday, the Mavericks will return to the Independence Events Center in first place, no matter the outcome of the two games in Denver this weekend.
“Two big games this weekend in Denver, but from this point on, they're all big – especially when your goal is first place, so we have home ice throughout the playoffs,” said Hillman, whose team lost Game 7 on the road of the CHL semifinals the past two seasons.
“First place is our goal this season, home ice in the playoffs is very important to this team, and you can tell how important it is by the way we're playing.”
Goalie Shane Owen stood out in the net against the Mallards, stopping 35 of 36 shots. He won his league-best 26th game (26-10-1) and lowered his goals against average to 2.47.
“Shane was just outstanding in the net tonight,” Hillman said. “And you can't say enough about our special teams. Our first goal was a shorthanded goal and they were 0-for-4 on power players. We've talked in the past about the importance of special teams and how a goalie can dominate a game and we saw that happen tonight.”
Although the CHL credited rookie Anders Franzon with the short-handed goal, Hillman believes it will be changed and John-Scott Dickson will be awarded the first-period goal.
Jeff Lee tied the game at 1-all for the Mallards later in the first period.
After a scoreless second period, Obi Aduba scored the second straight game-winning goal against his former team midway through the third period on assists from Evan Vossen and Jeff Buvinow.
“Obi scored the game-winner against them Sunday and did it again today,” Hillman said. “That's why we brought a player like Obi to the Mavericks. He is a big-time player, and his past two goals have been huge. If we don't get the shorthanded goal and if Obi doesn't get his second game-winner, then we don't win tonight.
“And at this point of the season, every win is huge.”