PRESCOTT VALLEY, Ariz. – The Arizona Sundogs used a three-goal second period and the brilliant play of goaltender Andrew Engelage to claim a 3-1 Central Hockey League playoff victory Wednesday night over the top-seeded Missouri Mavericks in the Tim's Toyota Center.
The victory gives the No. 8-seeded Sundogs a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series that resumes at 7:05 p.m. Friday on the Sundogs’ home ice. Game 4 will be played at 7:05 p.m. Saturday in Arizona.
“It doesn't get any bigger than Friday night's game,” Mavericks coach Scott Hillman said by phone after the loss. “This one is tough, and very disappointing.”
For one period, the Mavericks looked strong as Andrew Courtney, who has scored a goal in all three games of the playoffs, gave Missouri a 1-0 lead at 7:01 on a power-play opportunity. Matt Stephenson and Eric Castonguay assisted on the goal.
But that was all Missouri had to smile about as the Sundogs outshot the Mavericks 33-18 over the first two periods, taking 15 shots in the second period and slipping three of them past Mavs goalie Shane Owen for a lead they never relinquished.
David Rutherford scored on a power play goal at 8:26 to knot the score at 1-all. Michael Trebish scored the eventual game-winner on an even-strength goal at 12:04.
Then, with just 2:38 left in the period, Kevin Baker scored a goal on assists by Alex Tuckerman and former Maverick Brandon Coccimiglio to give the Sundogs a two-goal lead and a world of confidence heading into the final period.
The Mavericks were outshot for the second game in a row as the Sundogs had 41 shots on goal to Missouri’s 32. If there was a bright spot, it came in the third period when a resurgent Mavericks defense held the Sundogs to just eight shots on goal, but the damage was done and Missouri now faces a must-win game Friday night or it will face elimination Saturday.
“We had one of our hardest and most productive workouts of the season yesterday, and we all felt like we were ready to go,” Hillman said. “We had a solid first period, Courts kept his hot streak alive and Shane looked good in the net.
“Then, for some reason, we did not play as a five-man unit in the second period. We regrouped going into the third period and threw everything at them we had, but it wasn't enough. We came so close so many times, and just missed the net or Engelage made a great play. I know we will regroup and come back strong Friday. This team has no give up. None at all.”
The Sundogs gave the Mavericks a perfect scoring opportunity at 11:34 of the third period when Bryan Cameron was called for roughing. Seconds later, Paul McIlveen was whistled for cross checking, giving Missouri a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:09.
But again, the Mavericks could not find the back of the net.
“I kid you not, we came so close. The lack of scoring was not from a lack of effort,” Hillman said. “We know what we have to correct, and we will correct it. We will be ready to go Friday. We have to win Friday, and then we will start thinking about Saturday. But Friday is a must-win game.”