DENVER – It didn't take A.J. Gale long to make an impact on his new team, the Denver Cutthroats.
The CHL goals leader from last season – back after a stint in the American Hockey League – scored a goal and had two assists Friday night in Denver's 6-2 victory over the first-place Missouri Mavericks (32-14-2).
With the win, the 26-13-10 Cutthroats cut their second-place deficit to four points – 66 to 62 – and won their sixth game in a row. Denver owns a 3-1 record against the Mavericks this season. The two teams meet again at 8 p.m. Saturday in the Denver Coliseum.
Kyle Fletcher scored a short-handed goal and league scoring leader Garett Bembridge added a second goal to give Denver a 2-0 first-period lead.
The Cutthroats padded their lead to 3-0 when Gale scored at the 4:36 mark of the second period.
The Mavericks did their best to get back into the game as Sebastien Thinel and John-Scott Dickson sandwiched goals around one by Denver’s Vincent Arseneau later in the second period, but the Cutthroats still led 4-2 entering the final period.
Mikael Tam and Troy Schwab scored third-period goals for Denver to account for the final score. The Mavericks pulled goaltender Shane Owen in favor of Erno Suomalainen in the third period.
“We played really bad in our zone and they took advantage of each one of our mistakes,” Mavericks coach Scott Hillman said after team had a four-game winning streak come to an end while Denver extended its winning streak to six games. “We had bad coverage in our zone, and they made us pay.
“They got Gale back tonight and they already had the two top scorers in the league (in Bembridge and Schwab), so we knew they were going to have an explosive offense.
“They made it a 2-0 game in the first period and we managed to score two goals in the second period, but that was it. By pulling Shane, we have him ready to go Saturday if we choose to start him, or we can use Erno, who got some playing time in the third period and can know what to expect if he is in the net.
“They're a very good team, and we have to regroup. We came here hoping to get four points, and now we must play one of our better games to salvage this weekend and come home with two points.”