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Examiner
  • Althaus: Nolan could fill the role of playoff hero

  • Robby Nolan isn’t the best dressed Missouri Maverick.

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  • Robby Nolan isn’t the best dressed Missouri Maverick.
    That honor goes to fashion plate Gerry Festa, Nolan’s best buddy and backup goaltender, whose look is straight out of Milan, Italy.
    He doesn’t’ have the coolest nickname.
    “Nolly” doesn’t hold a candle to Carlyle “The Grim Sleeper” Lewis, who earned that moniker after KO’ing an opponent last season in an iconic performance that made him an instant fan favorite.
    The CHL’s Most Outstanding Goaltender and league leader in shutouts (seven) and goals against average (2.07) doesn’t even have a girlfriend.
    “I look around at the boys and see all the beautiful ladies and wonder what’s wrong with me,” Nolan said, doing his best to conceal a burst of laughter. “I came here looking for a lady – and I failed.”
    He also came to the Missouri Mavericks to help the second-year team win a CHL championship.
    And believe me, he will not fail in that endeavor.
    “Robby Nolan is the best goaltender in the league,” coach Scott Hillman said. “He’s a difference maker. We are so blessed to have two great goalies with Robby and Gerry – but Robby has really taken his game to new heights this season.
    “He’s made some saves that you see, and you think, ‘Did I just see what I think I saw?’ He’s that good.”
    Following one masterful performance this season, Lewis sent a message on Facebook. It simply said, “Robby Nolan is my hero.”
    Coming from “The Grim Sleeper,” that’s the ultimate compliment.
    Nolan and his teammates know they have the chance to do something special during the playoffs.
    And they’re excited about the prospect of opening on the road, in a 7:05 p.m. game tonight against the host Wichita Thunder (KCWJ, 1030 AM).
    “I can’t wait,” Nolan said matter of factly. “This is why you battle 66 games during the regular season. And every game against Wichita is going to be a battle.
    “We dislike them, and they dislike us. Emotions are going to run high, and it’s going to be a great first round of the playoffs.
    “A lot of the fans have been coming up and asking me about opening on the road, and to be honest with you – I love it. When you make a great stop – when all the fans and the guys on the opposing team are expecting a goal – and you block it, and you hear that, ‘O-h-h-h-h-h,’ you hear that disappointment, that fires me up more than a standing ovation in our arena.
    “I want to take the wind out of their sails early. And we can do that if every guy who gets out on the ice is accountable for his own actions. We can’t afford mistakes – especially early mistakes – because we can’t let them get an early advantage.
    Page 2 of 2 - “And I love the way we’ve been playing. We won two of three from them the last three times we played them, and I think we’re confident when we play them now. That wasn’t always the case this season.”
    The Thunder were 5-4-2 against the Mavericks during the regular season.
    “We’re so much better than we were early in the season,” said Nolan, who had to battle for a roster spot in a very competitive preseason camp. “And just being around the guys at practice and over the weekend, you can see how positive they are. We have to take that outlook, that mentality to Wichita.”
    Nolan sat the last two games of the regular season as Hillman wanted him fresh for the playoffs.
    “I was PO’d,” Nolan said. “I love Gerry, and I support him every time he’s out there, but I want to play every game. If I could, I’d be in the net all 66 games. I know what Scott was thinking, and you can’t argue with him, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.
    “I love playing for the guys on this team, and they love to go out and support me. And I think that’s going to carry us a long way through the playoffs.”
    How ironic that after another fan favorite, Charlie Effinger left the Mavericks last season (to pursue his master’s degree while playing for Newcastle in the Elite European League), a new hero would emerge in the net.
    “Robby can carry us a long way,” Lewis said. “The greatest thing about Robby is that he’s one of the boys. He doesn’t take himself seriously, and he works as hard as anyone on the team.
    “If we win the championship, maybe he can even find a girlfriend.”
    He might even find an Events Center full.
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