The line of Sebastien Thinel, Eric Castonguay and Andrew Courtney remains as sizzling as an Independence sidewalk on the Fourth of July.
The trio accounted for every point in a thrilling 2-1 victory over the Quad City Mallards at the Independence Events Center Friday night.
Thinel, the team captain and reigning CHL MVP, scored the first goal and assisted on Courtney’s game-winner, while Castonguay got credited with an assist on each goal in a game that had a playoff vibe.
Mavericks goaltender Shane Owen came within a minute and 50 seconds of recording his second shutout of the season but allowed a late goal to Quad City’s Vladimir Nikiforov.
That made the final minute interesting as Quad City pulled goaltender Ty Rimmer, but Owen and the Mavericks survived a volley of shots in the closing seconds to improve to 41-17-2 on the season and boost their CHL-leading point total to 84.
Second-place Denver was leading Arizona 2-1 late in the third period at press time. If the Cutthroats went on to win, they would remain a point behind the Mavericks with 83 points.
When asked if he was a scoreboard watcher, Mavericks coach Scott Hillman said, “You bet. I would check every minute if I could. We control our own destiny, and this was a big win. But I want to know what the other teams are doing.
“Much like Shane, Rimmer was great in the goal. You could sense the boys were PO’d when Quad City scored that late goal because we all wanted to see Shane get the shutout, but the two points are what matter the most.
“And with a game in their place tomorrow and then another back at home Sunday, the win tonight is even bigger. You always want to start a three-in-three weekend with a victory.”
The Mavericks took a 1-0 lead in the first period when Thinel fired a rebounded Courtney shot past Rimmer at 13:47.
“It was important to get the crowd into the game and get the early lead,” said Thinel, who is third in the league in scoring with 86 points. “We want to go into the playoffs with as much momentum as possible.”
Courtney then scored what turned out to be the game-winner when he fired the puck past Rimmer off a rebounded Thinel shot.
“We did real well attacking the net,” Hillman said, “and we needed every point we got. I know they’re saying in the other locker room that Rimmer deserved the win. He made some incredible saves – but so did our guy.”
Owen’s performance drew rave reviews as he stopped 25 of 26 shots and made some spectacular saves. Every win he records throughout the rest of the season adds to his team-record victory total of 34.
“I'll take the wins because it means the team is having success,” Owen said. “But tonight was a great team win. Stevie (Matt Stephenson) and Dix (John-Scott Dickson) made some great blocks, and our defense was amazing.
“That line with Sebbie, Casty and Courts is so hot, I’d hate to face those guys, and we got a lot of support from our fans. It was a great night – two big points.”
The Mavericks will leave for Moline, Ill., this morning for another key matchup tonight against a Quad City squad that is battling for a fourth-place slot in the standings and home ice in the first round.
“They’re a good team, and I thought we did a nice job slowing them down, and making the most of our scoring opportunities,” Hillman said. “Tomorrow is another big game.
“They’re going to go home with a lot of confidence because they played well tonight, even if they didn’t get the win. We need to come out with the same desire and intensity we had tonight.”