Eamon McAdam did his part to keep the Missouri Mavericks in it. Jesse Graham did the rest.
McAdam made some incredible saves between the pipes throughout Friday’s contest with the Wichita Thunder, and Graham broke a 2-2 tie when he scored with 2:40 left in the final period to help lift Missouri to a 4-2 win at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena.
In the first two periods, the Thunder kept it on the Missouri side of the ice for a large duration of the first 40 minutes and and held a 33-21 advantage in shots on goal.
That made is a busy day for the young Mavericks goaltender, who said his legs were starting to get tired from having to defend so many shots. He stopped 37 of 39 shots, including one in the first first in which he made a glove save while falling backward into the net. He also stopped to consecutive shots late in the period, one which was at point-blank range off a rebound. All three saves received a thunderous cheers from the sold-out crowd of 5,800.
“I think I’ve been improving every game since I’ve been here,” McAdam said. “I kind of hit a rough patch when I was up in Bridgeport (the Mavericks’ AHL affiliate). It took me a little bit to get out of the funk and now I am back into it.”
Mavericks coach John-Scott Dickson said McAdam had his best three days of practice prior to the game, which is why he got the nod to start.
“The last three practices were the best he’s ever had and it showed in the game,” Dickson said. “His rebound control was good and he made some really good saves. When he plays like that and works like that in practice, it’s going to roll over into a game.”
The 22-year old said he put together one of his best games of the season.
“You never want to go stagnant, you want to work hard in practice,” McAdam said. “It’s something they always harp on at the higher levels – the work ethic. I had a great week of practice.”
McAdam helped keep the game scoreless at the end of the first period when he nine Thunder shots. But he finally yielded one at the 12:52 mark in the second period when Vincent Dunn scored when he punched in a loose puck in front of the goal.
The Mavericks (19-19-2-5) appeared snakebitten at that point, missing a handful of close calls one of which bounced off the left post on a shot by Matt Finn. Forward Rocco Carzo also had a point-blank shot sial on him and go over the goal to keep the team scoreless.
However, the Mavericks finally got one when Finn corralled a loose puck in the defensive zone and fired a stretch pass along the right wall to Kyle Schempp. Schempp had a two-on-one rush with veteran Andrew Courtney, who received a pass on the doorstep and put one past diving Wichita goaltender Scott Greenham to tie it with 9.6 seconds left in the second.
“He’s had his chances the last few games,” Dickson said of Courtney. “He jumped off the bench and got his feet moving and called for the puck. He knows what he has to do to be successful.”
Zach O’Brien gave the Thunder the lead 5:50 mark in the third when he circled around the crease, beat McAdam to the left side of the goal and punched it into the open spot, making it 2-1.
Just 2 minutes later, Mavericks’ forward Carter Verhaeghe, who had 27 points in 13 games coming in, extended his points streak to 13 games. He put in a shot that deflected off Greenham following a pass from fellow forward Eric Scheid to tie it at 2.
Missouri’s defense began to stiffen in the third period as it only allowed six shots on goal after giving up 33 in the first two. That allowed the offense to get going. Jesse Graham, who was playing his first game after being out for two weeks with an ankle injury, made a slapshot through traffic in front of the blue line to give his team the lead at 3-2 at the 17:20 mark.
“It felt good for sure,” Graham said. “I did a lot of rehab stuff for the ankle sprain. It was a great team effort the whole game. Schempp made a good play to get it to me at the middle of the point and Courtney was in front of the net. He was a great screen. My job was just to get it through. I don’t think the goalie was able to see it with Courtney there.”
Afterward, the Thunder went with an empty net and paid for it when forward Dan Correale stole the puck from Alexis Vanier in the neutral zone and cruised toward the Wichita goal and put in an empty-netter to seal the victory with 1:12 left.
“It’s always nice to have that, I guess,” Correale said of his goal. “I don’t think you can say it found me. It’s just a lucky play. It was my first one of the year (an empty-netter). It’s not something that you are looking for, but if it’s there, I’ll take it.”