• 'Dark horse' Mavs steal two on road

  • The dark horses are suddenly the front-runners in the Turner Conference championship playoff series.

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  • The dark horses are suddenly the front-runners in the Turner Conference championship playoff series.
    Before the start of postseason action, Missouri goaltender Charlie Effinger called the No. 4-seeded Mavericks the dark horses of the playoffs “because no one really thought we’d make it this far.”
    Now, with a 4-0 sweep of Evansville in the first round and a two-game sweep at Fort Wayne this past weekend, the Mavericks are closer than ever to their first league championship series.
    “I heard someone talk about a 10-game winning streak,” Mavericks coach Scott Hillman said, referring to the team’s four-game winning streak to end regular-season play and its 6-0 playoff record, “but the only streak that means anything to the team right now is the two-game sweep this weekend at Fort Wayne.”
    The Mavs’ two wins marked the first time in CHL history that a road team has taken a 2-0 lead on the road in a conference finals series.
    There have been 18 times in the 20-year history of the CHL that a team has jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the conference finals and in 13 of those series, the wins both came on home ice. In five of those series, the first two games were split with one victory in each city.
    “We didn’t play our best hockey, but we played well enough to win and found a way to win two big games,” Hillman said. “We’re going to work on a few things before Wednesday night, because you know Fort Wayne is going to come in here and throw everything at us they’ve got.”
    The 2-0 Mavericks will host the Komets at 7:05 p.m. Wednesday at the Independence Events Center. The two teams will meet again at 7:05 p.m. Thursday, and if necessary the Mavericks will again host Fort Wayne at 7:05 p.m. Saturday.
    Tickets in all price ranges remain for each game. The Mavericks have never had a postseason sellout, and forward Andrew Courtney hopes that changes with the next three games being played on the Mavericks’ home ice.
    “A sold-out barn would be amazing, because we get so much energy from our fans,” said Courtney, who had two goals in Saturday’s 6-3 win over the Komets.
    “We’re all so excited about playing at home, especially since we went to Fort Wayne and got a couple of big wins. This series is starting out like the series against Evansville, and we’re going to do everything we can to see that we win it and go on the championship.”
    While the Komets were battling Rapid City in a semifinal series that took six games, the Mavericks were off the ice at the Independence Events Center 11 days because of their four-game sweep of Evansville and a five-day youth wrestling tournament.
    Page 2 of 2 - “We had some rust (at Fort Wayne),” forward Ed McGrane said, “but winning the first game helped get rid of it. Now, we’re back home, can practice and be ready for Wednesday night.”
    Courtney scored the first goal Saturday night and Effinger had 39 saves to lead the Mavericks to their Game 2 victory.
    “Charlie has been amazing throughout the playoffs,” Hillman said, “and all the boys contributed in one way or another. Courtney got us off on the right path with the first goal Saturday and we were able to score six goals to get a big, big win.”
    After the Mavericks jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period, the Komets replaced starting goaltender Nick Boucher with former Mavericks goalie Gerry Festa after the second goal.
    The Komets’ Jamie Lovell scored Fort Wayne’s first goal of the game at the 13:06 mark of the second period, but the Mavericks maintained their two-goal lead on a Patrick Schafer goal against Festa.
    Fort Wayne controlled most of the play in the second period and had a 35-12 edge in shots through the first two periods.
    Just 46 seconds into the third period, Courtney gave the Mavericks a 4-1 lead on a rebound off a shot by Ryan Jardine, but the Komets did not go quietly. Bobby Chaumont scored for Fort Wayne on a power play at the 3:53 mark and Chris Auger made it a one-goal game when he banged in a rebound at the 4:58 mark of the third period.
    Missouri iced the win on a Brandon Smith goal at 17:58 and McGrane’s empty-netter with 38 seconds left gave the Mavericks the home ice advantage for the remainder of the playoffs as the next three games will be played at the Events Center.

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