The Allen Americans brought their A-game to the Independence Events Center Tuesday night. More importantly they brought their grade-A goaltender.
The Americans, aided by strong goaltending from Bryon Pitton, scored four unanswered goals to overcome a 1-0 first-period deficit and claim a 4-1 victory over the first-place Missouri Mavericks.
The loss was the first game of a five-games-in-six-days stretch for the Mavericks, and one that left coach Scott Hillman shaking his head. When asked about the loss before a crowd of 5,126 fans, the coach had a quick answer.
“We didn't score,” Hillman said. “We had grade-A chances and didn't take care of them. We could have had a 3-0 lead minutes into the game. Their goalie did a great job.”
Sebastien Thinel gave Missouri a quick 1-0 lead at the 5:50 mark of the first period. But that was all Pitton would allow past him, stopping 37 of 38 shots. Mark Guggenberger, who was fined when he tripped Missouri mascot Mac on Allen's last trip to Independence on Feb. 15, was waived by the team and is no longer a part of the Americans’ roster.
“We had so many good chances, and tonight, (Pitton) stopped all but one,” said Thinel, who has inched up the scoring chart to fourth place in the league with 68 points. “This is a disappointing start to a stretch where we play five games in six days.
“We have to play better than this, and I think we will. Tonight, we ran into a hot goaltender. He was stopping everything. On most nights, we score many more goals than one.”
While Pitton starred, Missouri's Shane Owen struggled, allowing four goals on 30 attempts.
“Shane didn't receive the (defensive) help he usually gets,” Hillman said. “You looked at the scoreboard early in the game and at one point we had outshot them 9-2. Later it was something like 15-2 – and you had the feeling that might come back and hurt us.
“We lost out on two big points tonight, which makes tomorrow night's game at Quad City even more important.”
The 33-15-2 Mavericks remain in first place with 68 points, followed by Rapid City (63). Allen moved into a third-place tie with Denver at 62.
“You can't afford a letdown like this, especially at this point of the season to a team that is chasing you for first place,” Thinel said. “We have to regroup, get some rest on the bus ride to Quad City (Wednesday morning) and find a way to win tomorrow night.”
Hillman would not use it as an excuse, but the Mavericks spent 35 hours on a bus this past weekend after playing two games in Denver.
“There was a bit of a concern that the team might have a letdown, not have the energy we had hoped for tonight,” the coach said. “But the schedule it what it is. I've never seen five in six like we're facing, although tonight was a rescheduled game (because of a snowstorm that kept the game from being played on Feb. 4).”
Tyler Ludwig, Jonathan Lessard and Ben Power scored in the second period to give the defending CHL champs a 3-1 lead. Ludwig added a second goal – this time on the power-play – at the 5:03 mark of the third period. Alex Lavoie had three assists for the Americans.
The game got off to an interesting start when Mac, surrounded by Events Center personnel dressed as security guards, awaited the arrival of the Americans on the ice. However, coach Steve Martinson kept his team in the locker room until Mac skated off the ice.
Then, the ceremonial puck participant refused to shake the Allen player's hand following the pregame ceremony.
“There is no love lost between these two teams, but tonight it was all about hockey,” Hillman said. “And they were the better team.”
Owen, who leads the CHL in wins, saw his record drop to 26-12-1 and his goals-against average rise to 2.59. Thinel scored on a power play to pad the Mavericks’ league lead in power play percentage.