PRESCOTT VALLEY, Ariz. – No one on the Missouri Mavericks is looking for a panic button.
But coach Scott Hillman's team is desperately searching for the passion and energy that helped make it the top seed in the postseason and top the Central Hockey League regular-season standings.
A lethargic Mavericks team has limped through back-to-back playoff losses and now enters tonight's 9:05 (CDT, 7:05 Mountain time) game at Tim's Toyota Center with a new sense of urgency as the Arizona Sundogs hold a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven opening playoff round.
“We know what we have to do. Now we just have to go out and do it,” said red-hot forward Andrew Courtney, who has scored at least one goal in every playoff game this series. “We're disappointed, but we know what we have to do.
“We have to keep things simple, attack the net and limit their number of shots (Arizona has 42 and 41 shots in the last two games).”
Following an opening-game 5-3 victory, the Mavericks lost 4-3 at the Events Center and 3-1 Wednesday night in Arizona.
“In the regular season, we did all the things you need to do to win because we wanted the No. 1 seed,” Courtney added. “We wanted home ice in the playoffs. Now, we have to play with a new sense of urgency. We have to regroup.
“You're never going to see a better No. 8 seed than Arizona, because they started the season slow, added some great players, and finished strong (going 6-1-1 in their last eight home games). We need to stay focused, score some early goals and take them out of their game plan – which is what we did in the first game.”
When asked if tonight's contest was a must win, team captain Sebastien Thinel said, “Yes and no. Our backs are to the wall, that's for sure. But is it a must win? We need a win, because we don't want to go down three games to one, but the only real must win comes when if you lose, you are eliminated.
“We need to win Friday. We need to win badly. Right now, they have all the momentum, and we need a win to get the momentum back on our side. No one on the team is panicking. We know we can win Friday and we all believe we will win Friday night.”
But Thinel knows it won’t be easy against the Sundogs and CHL Goaltender of the Year Andrew Engelage.
“We also know that Arizona is a very good team, a dangerous team, who can beat you with their offense and with their goaltender,” he said. “This is such an emotional game, and we are an emotional team. And now, we are angry that we haven't played well in the last two games. No one is happy. We hate to lose. So we have to go out and win Friday, and then start thinking about a win Saturday so we can get back to Missouri and win the series.
“But no one is thinking about anything but winning Friday night, and doing everything possible to win that game.”