• High-scoring Thinel a big reason for Mavericks' turnaround this season

  • When Missouri plays host to rival Wichita and the expansion Denver Cutthroats this weekend, the Mavericks will hit the midway point of the 2012-13 season.

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  • When Missouri plays host to rival Wichita and the expansion Denver Cutthroats this weekend, the Mavericks will hit the midway point of the 2012-13 season.
    Through the first 31 games, the Central Hockey League's top MVP candidate has been Mavs forward Sebastien Thinel, who was named the league's Player of the Week for the period ending Dec. 30, 2012.
    He totaled nine points in three games and had the game-winning shorthanded goal in Missouri’s 5-3 victory at Tulsa.
    On Wednesday, Thinel also was named the First Star in the CHL’s Oakley Three Stars for December. His 29 points – on nine goals and 20 assists – in the month were double digits more than any other player in the league. He had three first-star honors, one second star and one third star in the month while leading the Mavericks to a 10-3-2 record.
    “There are games when Sebbie is great – which is just about every night,” Mavericks coach and former teammate Scott Hillman said of Thinel, a CHL legend who has more than 800 career points and leads the league this season with 50 points on 15 goals and 35 assists. “And there are games where you watch him and you don't believe what you are seeing out on the ice.
    “The great players – and I mean the really great players – make everyone else on the ice that much better. And that's what Sebbie does; he makes us so much stronger with his presence on the ice. He's had an amazing season.”
    Thinel had two goals and two assists in two games last week and has helped the Mavericks climb from the CHL cellar three weeks ago to fourth place in the league with a 16-11-4 overall record.
    The Mavericks take a two-game winning streak into Friday night's contest against the Thunder.
    “Sebbie has been so amazingly consistent this season,” said Hillman, who played with Thinel with the Odessa Jackalopes in Texas, who now play in the North American Hockey League. “If you're on the ice with him, you know you are going to get your scoring opportunities.
    “There are games where he will have two points, and he could have had six or eight if his teammates could have buried the puck. On the ice, in the locker room or in the community, he has been the player we hoped he would be when we brought him to Independence last year.
    “We had such high expectations, and he has lived up to or exceeded all of them.”
    When Thinel joined the Mavericks last season, he came into the locker room early in the season and found the captain's “C” on his jersey.
    “I've been in the league a long time, and played with Scott, but you have to earn that ‘C,’” Thinel said following Wednesday's practice. “I didn't know many of the guys on the team, although I had played against a lot of them, and I felt like it took a while before I earned the ‘C.’
    Page 2 of 3 - “But this year, I just feel so much more comfortable all the way around. My family loves it here, the fans are amazing and we are getting better and better every game and every practice.”
    Thinel said turning the season around has been the result of a basic game plan.
    “We struggled early in the season, just like last year, but we are playing some good hockey right now and I want to contribute any way I can,” he said. “Like we have talked about so many times this season, we all like to make the plays where the fans go crazy, but what's been working for us has been keeping it simple.
    “Rush the net, get the rebound, put it in the net. The way Mike (Clemente, the rookie goaltender who leads the league with 13 wins) has been playing, we feel like if we get a couple of goals we're going to win.
    “The defense has been banged up, but the guys have been playing great. We've been scoring some goals, winning some games, all is good.”
    While Thinel became an instant fan favorite last season, his two biggest fans are barely old enough to sit still through an entire game. But once Dad helps Maddx and Jett put on their gear, they pick up their mini sticks and are ready to hit the ice.
    “At home I put the national anthem on my iPod and we have to play it before we play hockey in the living room – Maddx insists we play the song,” Thinel said, grinning and shaking his head. “I don't get to watch him watch a game, but (wife) Ashley tells me he really watches the game, which is good for a 3-year-old. And Jett watches, too. At home, you can see them hold the stick and move like the guys on the team.
    “They know all the players’ names, and they love to come into the locker room or go out on the ice with me. We're all so comfortable here – this has really become our home.”
    While Thinel enjoys putting up big numbers, he has just one goal as he nears the twilight of a sensational career.
    “I want a ring,” he said. “That's why I came to Missouri in the first place and why I came back this year. You can see how Brent (Thiessen, team president and general manager) and Scott are building the team for February and March – heading into the postseason.
    “We are so much better now than we were back in October and we are going to be better in February and March than we are now. It's all exciting to think about. But we can't get ahead of ourselves.
    Page 3 of 3 - “We need to keep working hard, keep it simple and go out and find a way to win every night.”

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