Please don't ask Missouri Mavericks goaltender Shane Owen about leading the Central Hockey League in victories.
Ask him about his favorite restaurant, what he has on his iPod or what it's like being the chauffeur for his car-less teammates.
If you really want to put a smile on his face, ask about his team leading the CHL with a 37-16-2 record and 76 points.
Owen turned in one of this top performances of the season Friday night at the Independence Events Center, where he turned away 27 of 28 shots and led a rock-solid defensive performance as the Mavericks topped arch-rival Allen 3-1 before another sellout crowd of 5,800.
“The kid is the best,” veteran defenseman Matt Stephenson said of Owen. “You know when he's in the net you have a great chance of winning the game. We have two great goalies, and Shane was a big reason for the win tonight.
“When you see a player work as hard as he does, you want to work hard, too.”
The outcome might have been different had it not been for Stephenson blocking a shot while Owen was out of position during a scrum in front of the net at 12:06 of the second period.
“You don't get to play with many guys like Stevie (Stephenson),” said Owen, who leads the CHL with a 30-12-1 record. “And we have a team full of guys like that. The boys were blocking shots all night. They make me look good.”
The Mavericks are the first team to clinch a playoff berth this season, and stand in front of Rapid City (who visits the Events Center at 7:05 p.m. Tuesday) by seven points.
“When you play an Allen or Rapid City, it's really a four-point swing,” Owen said. “If you get two points, you keep them from getting two points. We have wins over Quad (City, 5-2 last Wednesday), Allen and we play Rapid Tuesday.
“We need to win all three games.”
Before the Quad City game, Stephenson said the Mavericks were on a mission.
“We all talked about the importance of winning the next three games – starting with Quad City,” Stephenson said. “If we win against Rapid on Tuesday, we're looking good. But no one in that locker room is popping the champagne cork for making the playoffs or even finishing in first.”
Team captain Sebastien Thinel got the Mavericks on the scoreboard and the fans out of their chairs when he scored at 14:28 of the first period. He was assisted by Eric Castonguay and Andrew Courtney.
The Mavericks doubled their lead on a Castonguay goal at 9:46 of the second period. Courtney picked up his second assist of the night as Castonguay scored his team-high 26th goal.
Allen made it interesting when Greger Hanson scored at 8:01 of the third period, and things really got interesting when Allen Garrett Klotz and Mavericks enforcer Colt King exchanged blows near mid ice at 14:19 as players from both teams applauded the effort by tapping their sticks on the ice.
King was furious when the fight ended as Klotz was given an additional 2-minute penalty for kneeing. King kicked Klotz's helmet across the ice as he left for the locker room.
Allen pulled goaltender Bryan Pitton at with 1:05 left in the game and John-Scott Dickson scored an empty net goal with 1.7 seconds left to seal it. He passed the puck to Thinel, who passed it back to Dickson, who placed it in the back of the net.
“That was one of the better performances we have had this season,” Mavericks coach Scott Hillman said. “The boys are playing well right now, we just have to keep playing like this through the end of the regular season and into the playoffs.”