While the Missouri Mavericks wrapped up the best season in the five-year history of the team with three losses, coach Scott Hillman said his squad knows what mistakes it made and is more than ready for the opening game of the Central Hockey League playoffs.
Missouri (44-20-2) will play host to No. 8 seed Arizona (32-27-7) at 7:05 p.m. Friday at the Independence Events Center.
“The last three losses were disappointing,” Hillman said after the Mavericks fell to the Tulsa Oilers 3-1 Friday and 5-3 Saturday at the Events Center and then traveled Sunday to Moline, Ill., where they lost 5-3 to the Quad City Mallards.
“But believe me, no one on this team is thinking about the three losses. All our focus is on Arizona and Friday night’s game. We’re the No. 1 seed in postseason, we have home ice and we worked hard 66 games in the regular season to make that happen.
“No team wants to go into the playoffs losing their last three games, but now the boys can get back to concentrating on the goal at hand – and that’s winning a championship.”
Veteram forward Colt King says he pays no attention to negative things posted on various websites about the team’s final three losses.
“Did we play to lose? ABSOLUTLEY NO!” King said at a standing-room-only team-sponsored playoff party Monday night at Saints Pub and Patio. “We could have won each of those games, but we didn’t. That part of the season is over, and right now, all we’re concentrating on is the playoffs.
“Don’t get me wrong, but those games didn’t mean anything when you look at the final standings.”
Otherwise, King said, team captain Sebastien Thinel wouldn’t have been held out of the finale at Quad City.
“Coach knows what he’s doing,” King said. “When we needed to win to get that top spot in the standings, we played our best hockey. Why risk an injury, an ejection or suspension in games that don’t mean anything at the end of the season?
“You don’t want to do that, and we didn’t. Coach was smart, we played smart, we didn’t win. But believe me, you’re going to see a playoff mentality, a playoff toughness come Friday night. We’re ready, and we’re going to have success.”
Saturday, Missouri trailed the Oilers 3-1 before Tyler Currier scored in the second and Andrew Courtney in the third to tie the game. Tulsa’s Todd Robinson broke the deadlock with a power-play goal midway through the third, and Oilers added an empty-netter.
Mike Ramsay had a power-play goal early in the second for the Mavericks.
Sunday saw the Mavs again fall behind 2-0 and 3-1, allowing power play and short-handed goals in the process, then rally to tie the game at 3 on goals from Obi Aduba in the second and Ramsay in the third. The Mallards then got goals from Jeff Lee and Matt Boyd to close the regular season with a victory.
Shane Owen was in the net in Saturday’s loss, and backup Erno Suomalainen was in the net Sunday.
“Sure you want to play better and get the win,” said Owen, who led the CHL with 35 wins. “Now, we have to get back to our winning ways Friday against Arizona.”
Suomalainen agreed, adding, “I did not play well Sunday, and that is disappointing to me personally. I want to have a successful playoffs, and I will do anything Coach asks of me. I would feel better tonight if we would have won on Sunday, but we all know that the biggest games begin on Friday.”
BIG MONTH FOR COURTNEY: Veteran forward Andrew Courtney scored 12 goals with 10 assists in 14 games in March. Courtney ends the season on a 15-game point streak (26 points over that span) and set the Mavs’ single-season goal record with 34.