The Missouri Mavericks locker room was dark and empty.
There was no music playing in Bill Murray's training room, and the lights were off in equipment manager Andrew Dvorak's office, which is always a pre-practice gathering point for the players.
The coffee machine was unplugged, and the only equipment in the locker room was a neatly folded jersey that sat in every player's stall – their gift to take home following the greatest regular season in team history and the most devastating postseason in the team's five-year history.
Mavericks coach Scott Hillman is sitting in his office with assistant coach Simon Watson, who oversees all the Jr. Maverick youth hockey programs. There are messages to be returned, some mail to look through and moments to try and figure out the nightmarish end to a season with so much hope and promise.
Despite Tuesday's season-ending 4-3 double-overtime loss to the Arizona Sundogs, the only coach in the history of the Mavericks did have some good news.
“We found out that (rookie defender Henrik) Ødegaard and (veteran forward Eric) Castonguay have been called up to Chicago,” Hillman said, referring to the Mavericks’ American Hockey League affiliate, the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League and feeder for the NHL’s St. Louis Blues. “They're playing for home ice and want some depth, so Odie and Castie will still have some games to play, and they really deserve it. They had a great season.”
The 44-20-2 Mavericks did have a great regular season. Shane Owen led the CHL in wins (35), he and defenseman Matt Stephenson were on the All-CHL team and Ødegaard, who played for his native Norway in the Winter Olympics in Sochi, was named to the All-CHL Rookie team.
Sebastien Thinel once again led the team in scoring (94) and Andrew Courtney led with 34 goals. The Mavericks had the best record in the league and earned postseason home ice for the first time in the five-year history of the team, only to lose to the No. 8-seeded Sundogs four games to two – with Arizona winning two games at the Independence Events Center.
“We lost the last two seasons in Game 7 of the semifinals, and those losses were very difficult to take,” Hillman said. “But the loss Tuesday night, to end this season, had a different feel. It was devastating – the toughest loss I have ever experienced as a player or a coach.
“A loss like that is going to make (postseason) evaluations a bit different. After a loss like that, everyone needs a little bit extra time to heal. I know that if I was a player, and I was considering my future plans – like some of the veteran guys on this team are doing – I would want some extra time to think about what happened.
“Now isn't the time to think about the future. It is a time to step away, a time to heal.”
Throughout the season, many of the Missouri veterans hinted that this might be their last campaign. But at the time, they were expecting to go out with a championship ring on their finger.
Now, with the bitter taste of a second consecutive double-overtime loss in their mouth, many are pondering their future.
One who isn't, though, is Thinel, who would like to return next season.
“I hope to be back,” Thinel said earlier this week. “I want to play and if I play, it will be in Missouri for Scott and the Mavericks. I hope they want me back. This is my hockey home, this is where I want to play and I feel like there is some unfinished business with the way the season ended.”
Hillman said he had not heard anything from any players about their future.
“We have exit interviews on Friday,” the coach said. “We'll talk about this season and about the future, but I think that mostly we will just talk. Like I said, this is a time to heal for all of us.”
MEET THE MAVS: The Mavericks players and coaches will be on hand from 6 to 8 tonight at the Independence Events Center to say goodbye to fans, pose for photos and sign autographs. The team's black jerseys will be up for auction along with game-used and one-of-a-kind items from this past season.