MOLINE, Ill. – The Missouri Mavericks were breathing some rarefied air, and it had nothing to do with their Wednesday night trip to play the Quad City Mallards.
Trevor Kell and Andrew Courtney each scored two goals and the Mavericks were perfect with their penalty kill unit to claim a 5-2 victory to become the first team in the Central Hockey League to clinch a playoff berth this season.
“We're in the playoffs?” Courtney asked by phone. “Great. Now, we have to go after Goal No. 2 – earning home ice. Our first and biggest goal was making the playoffs. It's great to accomplish that. Now, we have to make sure and earn the home ice advantage. We all know how important that is after the past two seasons.”
But even that was upstaged by veteran forward Sebastien Thinel. He assisted on Courtney's first goal at the 11:22 mark of the first period to become just the third player in CHL history to record 900 points. But all Thinel wanted to talk about after the game was the win.
“Someday, when I retire, talking about 900 points and 300 goals will be fun,” said Thinel, who leads the Mavericks with 75 points. “What I really want to talk about is winning a championship. I was told we clinched a playoff spot tonight, but we want home ice. We believe with home ice, we have a very good chance of winning a championship.”
The Mavericks lost to the eventual CHL champion on its home ice in Game 7 of the semifinals the past two seasons.
“We're going to get home ice, that's a goal, and we're not going to let anyone keep us from reaching it,” said Courtney, who added a power play goal with just 18 seconds left to seal the win.
Kell posted three points, including second- and third-period goals. His first, on an assist from Rob Kleebaum, at the 6:12 mark of the second period put the Mavericks up 2-0. His second, on assists from Colt King and Anders Franzon, made it 4-2 at the 2:40 mark of the third.
“A big night for Courts and Kell, a big night for the boys, another big win,” Mavericks coach Scott Hillman said after his team improved to 36-16-2 and earned its 74th point of the season to pad its lead in the CHL standings. “We're in the playoffs, but no one is satisfied making the playoffs. We won't be satisfied until we get home ice.
“So, that being said, Friday night's home game against Allen is crucial. We still play Allen and Rapid City, and we have to beat those teams because those become four-point games. We're done with Denver, so when we meet the teams right behind us, we have to come out on top.”
Following the Mavericks are Rapid City (67), Allen (66) and Denver (66).
The Mavericks were 2-for-3 on the power play and held the Mallards scoreless on five power-play opportunities.
Thinel was more excited about the victory than his milestone achievement. He joined Joe Burton (985) and Travis Clayton (982) as the only three in CHL history with 900 points. Thinel is fifth all-time in goals (305) and third all-time in assists (595).
“Tonight was like a playoff game,” Thinel said. “We wanted to shut them down on their power play – which we did – and we scored on two of our power plays. We played a very good, a very smart game tonight.”
Three goals were scored within a minute span in the second period as Kell and Mike Ramsay scored at 6:12 and 7:12 and the Mallards' Thomas Frazee scored at 6:29.
“Rammer's goal was big, because it came right after they scored,” Hillman said. “Kell scored a couple of big goals and Rammer's goal was so important. Kinger (Colt King) had a big night, too, with two assists.
“And (goaltender Shane) Owen was big in the net (stopping 27 of 29 shots). He gave up a couple of goals in the second period, but they could have scored three or four and he held them to just two. We can enjoy this one on the ride home and start preparing for Allen tomorrow.”
The Mavericks are off today and play host to Allen at 7:05 p.m. Friday at the Independence Events Center. It is Salute the Military Night, and the Mavs will be wearing military-themed jerseys that will be auctioned off after the game.