As long as the Missouri Mavericks stay alive in this year’s playoffs, they will own the home-ice advantage.
The Mavericks clinched that by turning in their most dominating performance of the season Tuesday to rout the expansion St. Charles Chill 8-0 and secure the team’s first Central Hockey League Bud Poile Governors’ Cup season points title.
Goalkeeper Erno Suomalainen was perfect in the net, Andrew Courtney recorded the hat trick and totaled five points and Sebastien Thinel and Mike Ramsay finished with four points each as the Mavericks blanked their cross-state rival.
The win gives Missouri a 44-17-2 record, 90 points and home ice throughout the playoffs.
“The guys who were in the locker room last year, or the last two years, know the importance of home ice,” said Courtney, who followed a two-goal game Sunday with three goals and two assists Tuesday night at the Independence Events Center.
Following his third goal, at 18:18 of the third period, hats came flying out of the stands to honor his hat trick.
“The boys played well tonight, and this is the time of year you want to play your best hockey,” Courtney added. “Erno was huge in the net, and everyone seemed to get in on the scoring. Now, with three games left (in the regular season) we can't let up. We want to go into the playoffs with a lot of momentum – the type of momentum you get from wins like this.”
Thinel put the Mavericks on the scoreboard at 10:29 of the first period off assists from Courtney and Eric Castonguay. The line of Thinel, Courtney and Castonguay accounted for 12 points in the game.
“That is the hottest line in the league right now,” Mavericks coach Scott Hillman said as he clutched the game puck from one of the biggest victories of his career. “I'm so happy we played like we did tonight to get the clinching win on our home ice in front of the best fans in the CHL.
“We have a full building on a Tuesday night makeup game. That shows what type of support we have received from our fans this season, and we know we're going to get the same type of support in the playoffs.”
A crowd of 5,618 filled the Events Center in a game that was not on the regular-season calendar. It was a makeup of a March 2 game that was postponed due to ice and snow.
“From day one, all we talked about was getting home ice in the playoffs and we achieved that tonight,” defenseman Dave Pszenyczny said. “We got a lot of points, played great defense and Erno had a big night in the net.
“This is the type of win you want to get going into the playoffs.”
Courtney and Colten Hayes, who also recorded an assist and was plus-5 on the night, followed with first-period goals to give the Mavericks a 3-0 lead.
Courtney scored his second goal of the night at the 10-minute mark, and rookie Tyler Currier scored his second goal in the past three games with just 25 seconds left in the second period to make it 5-0.
Thinel, Colt King and Courtney wrapped up the scoring in the third period, and Suomalainen finished the night stopping all 21 shots he faced to earn the praise of his teammates.
“You want two strong goaltenders going into the playoffs,” Thinel said. “Shane (Owen) is our No. 1 guy, but now, the way Erno has been playing, we feel like we have two No. 1 goaltenders.”
It was Suomalainen's second win in a row as he was in the net in Sunday's 3-1 win against the Quad City Mallards.
“It's fun to be in goal in a big game like this,” said Suomalainen, who was cut in the preseason but returned to the team at midseason. “When you score eight goals, you expect to win. Everyone is talking about the eight goals, but we played great defense, too.
“I didn't face that many shots, and the guys who played in front of me did a great job.”
When asked about being in net in the biggest win of the season, Suomalainen smiled.
“It's like a dream,” he said. “I was so happy when I got the call to come back and join the team, and now I want to do everything I can to help them win – now, and in the playoffs.”
Ramsay finished with four assists and Castonguay added three.