The Missouri Mavericks made sure they remained atop the Central Hockey League standings with a little help from an unexpected source.
For his second start in a row against a second-place team, backup goaltender Erno Suomalainen starred in the net, leading Missouri to a 6-3 victory Saturday night at Denver.
Mike Ramsay scored two goals and Trevor Kell had three assists to help the 33-14-2 Mavericks split the two road games with the Cutthroats (the Mavs lost 6-2 Friday) and pad their lead to five points over Rapid City and six over Denver. The Mavericks have 68 points to lead the Rush (63) and Cutthroats (62).
“It felt good to help the team win, especially after we lost Friday night,” said Suomalainen, who stopped 39 of 42 shots. “I feel more and more comfortable in the net with every start.
“This is a very good team. Our penalty-kill unit is the best in the league, and we even got a short-handed goal Saturday in Denver. We are playing very well right now and I am happy to contribute any way I can.”
He will likely make more contributions this week as the Mavericks play five games in six days, including tonight’s 7:05 home game against the Allen Americans, a makeup of a Feb. 4 game postponed by a snowstorm.
“Never, never, never heard of five in six,” Mavericks coach Scott Hillman said. “We're definitely going to use Erno in some of those games. He's shown us he is a high-caliber goaltender.”
Said captain Sebastien Thinel of Suomalainen: “The best backup goalie in the league. We have confidence with him and Shane (Owen) in the net. He has been in Shane's shadow all season, but the way he is playing now, he is in no one's shadow.”
Defenseman Mathieu Gagnon notched his first goal as a Maverick and Ramsay followed with a score to erase a 1-0 first-period deficit and give the Mavericks a 2-1 lead entering the final period Saturday.
Colt King opened the third period with a goal Evan Vossen scored a short-handed goal to make it 4-2. After a goal by Denver’s Kyle Fletcher made it 4-3, Andrew Courtney scored at the 17:54 mark and Ramsay added an empty-net goal just more than a minute later to seal the win.