There’s a reason they call that all-important score that gives a team a late two-point lead the insurance goal.
Early in the third period Saturday night at the Independence Events Center, with his Missouri team leading 3-2, Colten Hayes took a perfect pass from Evan Vossen and fired a slap shot that Wichita goaltender David Brown had no chance of defending to give the Mavericks a 4-2 lead.
At the moment, it seemed like a big goal, but certainly not as important as team captain Sebastien Thinel’s two goals that gave the first-place Mavericks a 3-2 lead. But with less than a minute to play, the Thunder pulled their goalie and managed to make the game a bit more exciting on Andrew Martens’ extra-attacker goal.
The Mavericks regrouped and made sure the Thunder could not get off another shot in the waning seconds to claim a key 4-3 victory.
Missouri (35-16-2) stands atop the CHL with 72 points, followed by Allen and Denver (66), Rapid City (63) and Brampton (61).
The Mavericks’ game Sunday against St. Charles was postponed due the snowstorm that hit the area and has been rescheduled for 7:05 p.m. Tuesday, March 25.
“Hazer’s (Hayes’) goal was huge, and it was a rocket,” Mavericks coach Scott Hillman said. “You don’t see many shots that hard in this league. Voss set him up beautifully and he was waiting with his stick in the air.
“He got the pass and ‘Boom!’ Brown didn't have a chance. That’s as hard a shot as you will see in this league, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. As it turned out, it was more than an insurance goal – it was the game-winner.”
When asked about the goal, Hayes just grinned and gave credit to his teammate.
“A perfect pass – I was waiting and he couldn’t have made the pass any better,” Hayes said. “I haven’t scored in a while, and it felt good to get that goal. But it didn’t feel as good as winning the game. At this time of year, we need to win every game if we want home ice in the playoffs.”
The past two seasons, the Mavericks have lost Game 7 of the CHL semifinals on the road.
“If we are lucky enough to reach a Game 7 this year,” said Thinel, who has 14 points in his last 11 games, “we want it be on our ice. We started this week off in rough shape with the losses to Allen and Quad City.
“But we rebounded and beat two teams in the bottom of the league (edging St. Charles 4-3 Friday night). I actually thought we played better in the loss to Allen than we played tonight, but we did not get any bounces against Allen.
“Tonight, we got down (2-0) but we got a big goal from Tyler Currier to get us on the scoreboard, and we found a way to come back and win another close game. At this point of the season, you don’t even think about the final score – only the outcome.”
Trailing 2-0, Currier scored his first professional goal to make it a 2-1 game. Thinel then knotted the score in the second period, making it a 2-2 game going into the final 20 minutes of play.
The team captain gave Missouri a 3-2 lead and Hayes scored the all-important fourth goal to help the Mavs maintain a six-point lead atop the standings.
“We’re in the driver’s seat with 10 games left,” Hillman said. “First is ours to lose, and it isn’t going to happen. It means too much to the boys in the locker room to lose first place now.”