Only time will tell if the Missouri Mavericks have once again signed a top-flight goaltender, but first-year coach Richard Matvichuk couldn’t be any more excited about the CHL team’s latest acquisitions – goaltender Josh Unice and former Mavericks forward Kellan Tochkin.
“We signed two guys who will make us a better hockey team in the upcoming season,” Matvichuk said Thursday morning. “Josh is a goaltender coming straight out of university with stats that speak for themselves. He played a couple games in the ECHL last year, and after talking with him I know he’s ready to make that jump to the next level. I’m confident we can turn him into a great professional goalie.”
Unice, 25, was drafted by the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks in the 2007 Entry Draft. Since then, he has gone on to play five seasons at the University of Western Ontario, where the Holland, Ohio, native was 58-18 with a 2.30 goals-against average.
“We’re going to emphasize goaltending and defense this year, and we think we have a good one with Josh,” Matvichuk said. “He’s excited about coming to Missouri and we’re excited to sign him.”
Unice is excited, too, to be joining the team that topped the Central Hockey League's regular-season standings last year.
“The opportunity to play for an organization like the Missouri Mavericks is already an honor,” Unice said, “but the opportunity to play for a coach that has the history and respect of Coach Matvichuk was something I couldn’t pass up. Now I hope that I can help bring a championship to Independence.”
That’s the only goal for Tochkin, who was a fan favorite in his first year with the Mavericks. The talented forward was originally signed as a free agent by the Vancouver Canucks in 2009. The 23-year-old Abbotsford, British Columbia, native, was most recently obtained by the Carolina Hurricanes from Vancouver in September 2013 as part of a multi-player trade. Tochkin played with the Florida Everblades and the Evansville Icemen of the ECHL last season.
“I talked with Coach Matvichuk the past two or three weeks, and I know he wants to win a championship and so do I,” said Tochkin, who played 56 games with Missouri in 2012-13, scoring 15 goals and adding 29 assists.
“I struggled some my first season, but I knew how important the playoffs were, and that’s when I picked it up. You have to have that approach to win a championship, and we came close that year. I think this is the year the Mavericks reward the best fans in the CHL with a championship, and I want to be a part of it.”
Matvichuk, a former Allen Americans assistant, remembers what Tochkin did in the 2013 playoffs, scoring a CHL-best 17 points in 12 games.
“Tochkin is a proven player at the Double-A level, and he’s really matured a lot over the last two years,” Matvichuk said. “He’s a proven playoff player; he showed that against the Allen Americans in 2013. We’re very excited to have him on the roster with what he brings to the team offensively. He’s been a big name in this community before, and I’m sure everyone will be very excited to have him back.”
Team president Brent Thiessen, who has signed top goalies like Charlie Effinger, Robbie Nolan, Mike Clemente and Shane Owen, believes the addition of Tochkin and Unice will be a big plus for a team in search of its first championship.
“We are looking forward to seeing Tochkin back in action and welcoming Unice,” Thiessen said. “As everyone knows, we have always had solid goaltenders between the posts, and we expect nothing less this season.”