The Missouri Mavericks are on a roll.
With back-to-back wins over then second-place Allen, followed by back-to-back-wins over then second-place Quad City, the Missouri Mavericks now face the CHL's newest second-place team, Denver, on the Cutthroats’ home ice tonight and Saturday.
“It seems like every team we have played lately was in second place,” Mavericks coach Scott Hillman said by phone from the team hotel in Denver. “Now, we need to come back home with four more points and continue to create some distance between our team and the Cutthroats.”
Missouri (32-13-2) sits atop the Central Hockey League with 66 points followed by Denver (60), Rapid City (59) and Allen and Quad City (56 each).
With a 2-1 victory Wednesday at Quad City, the Mavericks will return to the Independence Events Center after this weekend in first place – no matter the outcome of the two games in Denver this weekend.
“Right now, the boys aren't thinking about much,” the coach said. “We had a team breakfast, then drove the bus over to the arena to unload the gear. It was a long drive from Moline, Ill., we got in about 10 this morning, so the players have the day off.
“This is a tough place to play. You have to deal with the altitude and their building has different shaped corners, so you have to be ready for different reactions from the puck. We're not making excuses, that's just the way it is.”
Hillman said continuously playing top teams is keeping his players on their toes.
“We're excited about the two games this weekend. I think the boys like the challenge that comes from facing the better teams in the league,” the coach said. “For a while there, we were playing the teams near the bottom of the standings – like Wichita – and now, we're playing the Allens and the Quad Cities and the Denvers and we're hoping for a four-point weekend.”
Hillman is especially excited about rookie goaltender Shane Owen, who 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 has just stood on his head in the net,” Hillman said. “He makes the saves you should make and then makes the ones that you have to see to believe. The special teams are playing well. Really, we're playing our best hockey right now.
“We've overcome a lot this season with the injuries, illness and suspensions. We built a team that we believed would come together like this one has and this is when you want to be at your best.”