Andrew Courtney is not a scoreboard watcher.
Even on this rare occasion, when the veteran forward is alone in the Missouri Mavericks locker room, he doesn't cast a quick glimpse at the scoreboard that coach Scott Hillman updates on a daily basis.
“I know two things,” said Courtney, who visited the Independence Events Center early Tuesday to break in a new pair of skates. “We're in first place; we're in the driver's seat. If we win five of our last seven games, we don't have to worry about what any other team does. So why worry about Denver or any other team?
“We know what we have to do.”
He pauses for a moment, “And we're going to find a way to do it.”
Those are not hollow words. He means it, and he can back it up.
The 40-17-2 Mavericks (82 points) would not be in first place had they not found a way to win the first games last week at Brampton, Ontario, where they edged the expansion Beast 3-2 and 5-4 after a 36-hour marathon bus trip that featured a broken trailer hitch, mechanical issues, weather woes and a lengthy wait for an accident to be cleared off the highway.
Denver, a sizzling team that won five games last week and is on a nine-game winning streak, owns a 35-15-10 record and sits in second place with 80 points. The Cutthroats have six games left this season, while the Mavericks have seven.
And the schedule maker was kind to Hillman's team as they play four games against the Quad City Mallards, two against the Tulsa Oilers and one against the league's other expansion squad, the St. Charles Chill. And five of the seven are at home.
“We have a lot of success against Tulsa, and we've done all right against St. Charles and Quad City,” Courtney said. “But in this league, you never know what to expect. Brampton is a first-year team and we're 2-3 against them. We lost to St. Charles earlier this season, but Coach Hillman and (team president) Brent Thiessen built this team for a playoff run.
“We have the great veterans like Stevie (Matt Stephenson), Kinger (Colt King), Rammer (Mike Ramsay) and Sebbie (Sebastien Thinel). The new guys like Eric (Castonguay) and Shane (Owen) have played such big roles on the team and we have a bunch of young guys who know how to play.”
Courtney certainly also has been a major reason the Mavericks are in first place. He is third on the team with 54 points (15th-best in the CHL) and second in goals with 25 (11th in the CHL). He has a plus-10 rating, a team-high 10 power-play goals and three game-winning goals.
“I like where we are,” Courtney said. “Every team in the league would like to be in first place, and we just have to make sure we keep winning so we stay there.”
The Mavericks have won the most games in team history (40), lead the league in power play and penalty kill special teams play and Shane Owen owns the team single-season win mark for a goalie (33).
The Mallards visit the Events Center for games Friday and Sunday. The two teams then journey to Moline, Ill., for a Saturday night contest.
MAVS TO VISIT BLUE SPRINGS: The Mavericks will be acting as waiters tonight from 6 to 8 p.m. when they take over Plowboys, a barbecue restaurant located on South Missouri 7 in Blue Springs (3111 Missouri 7).
Plowboys owner Todd John is a season ticket holder and invited the team to participate in the interviews when BBQ Crawl, a nationally televised program, visited his business before the start of the season. The episode is scheduled to air sometime in April on the Travel Channel.