When Shane Owen leaves the Missouri Mavericks locker room Friday night at the Independence Events Center and looks across the ice at the opposing net, he will see a good friend and former teammate.
Andrew Engelage, the first-year Arizona Sundogs netminder who won the CHL Goaltender of Year award for the 2013-14 campaign, will be in the net when the Mavericks play host to Arizona in the first round of the Central Hockey League playoffs.
He and Owen were teammates on the 2012-13 Utah Grizzlies of the East Coast Hockey League, who were coached by first-year Sundogs coach Kevin Colley.
“I was a teammate of Andrew's and three or four other guys on the team that Coach Colley brought with him from Utah,” said Owen, who fell two votes behind his friend in the CHL Goaltender of the Year award. “This is the type of season, the type of series, you dream about.
“It's going to be so much fun to play against Andrew and the other guys I know on the team. We played them early, but that seems like years ago, not just months ago. They have basically an entirely new team, and they are a great team.”
While Engeleage is familiar to Owen, one of the hottest Sundog players will be familiar to Mavericks fans as former Missouri forward Brandon Coccimiglio will make his return to the IEC. In 25 games with the Sundogs, he scored 41 points and finished on a tear as Arizona wrapped up the regular season with a 6-1-1 record on an eight-game home stand. He was named CHL Player of the Week for the final week of the regular season with four goals and four assists in a 2-0-1 week for Arizona.
“They are a great offensive team and Andrew was voted the top goalie in the CHL, so we're going to have a battle,” said Owen, who was Engelage's backup in Utah. “We're all happy that the playoffs start at home with our great fans. We're going to be counting on them for support Friday night, that's for sure.”
Engelage was second in the CHL with a 2.46 goals against average and finished with a 29-14-5 record and a tie for the league lead with four shutouts. Owen led the league with 35 wins (35-15-1) and 1,420 saves and was third with a 2.56 goals against average.
“I guess you could say this series will be for bragging rights,” said Owen, who never made a big deal out of any postseason awards. “The only award I'm interested in is a championship, and we have to get past a very good team to accomplish that goal. This is going to be a series where both teams are going to leave everything out on the ice.
“Like I said before, when I came to Missouri I didn't know what to expect. There are players who play their entire careers and never get to experience the thrill of the playoffs. And it all gets started Friday night.
“I just wish you could blink your eyes and it could start tonight. I'm sure this week will be a combination of nervousness and excitement with butterflies in your stomach and adrenaline flowing through your body. I know Coach (Scott Hillman) is going to have us ready, and we have the great veteran leaders in our locker room – guys who have championship rings – who we can look up to and watch to see how they get prepared for this series.
“This is step one of our quest to win a championship – and it's going to be a big step. And we can't wait.”