• Mavericks cruise into CHL semifinals

  • Kellan Tochkin will never forget his first – or last – game of the best-of-seven playoff series against Rapid City.

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  • Kellan Tochkin will never forget his first – or last – game of the best-of-seven playoff series against Rapid City.
    The Missouri Mavericks rookie forward was benched following a dismal performance in the first game of the series, and he simply said, “I was garbage,” when he was a healthy scratch in a Game 2 loss.
    With his team down 2-0 in the Central Hockey League first-round playoff series, Tochkin caught fire. He scored the game-winning overtime goal in the Mavericks’ first win of the series. He turned it up a notch Wednesday night in Rapid City as he scored two goals and added two assists for four points to go along with two goals by captain Sebastien Thinel in a series-clinching 5-1 victory.
    Tochkin now leads the CHL with nine points in the playoffs.
    “The puck likes me right now,” Tochkin said by phone in the noisy locker room. “I'll admit I was nervous in the first game, and (coach) Scott (Hillman) let me know what he thought of my play by sitting me.
    “I knew I had to come back and prove myself. To go from a bad game, to sitting, to scoring four points tonight in the fourth win in a row is unbelievable. I can't imagine feeling any better than we feel tonight. But each series is more important, so hopefully I'll know what that feeling is like.”
    The win sets the stage for a CHL semifinal series against No. 1 ranked Allen that begins Sunday on the Americans' home ice.
    The Mavericks will host games 3, 4 and 5 – if needed – at the Independence Events Center. Tickets for the home playoff games go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday.
    Before the game, coach Scott Hillman said his team needed to score first to take the crowd out of it at Rapid City.
    Tochkin obliged, scoring at 9:44 of the first period. He extended his goal-scoring streak to four games by taking a pass from Kenton Miller on the left wing and beating Rush goaltender Tim Boron with a shot over his glove.
    “The first goal was huge,” Thinel said. “Scott said we needed to get on the scoreboard first, and Tochkin did a nice job scoring our first goal.”
    Thinel, on assists from Ryan Jardine and Colt King, followed with his first of two goals and the Mavericks took a 2-0 lead into the second period.
    Rapid City's Scott Wray cut the lead to 2-1 when he scored just the second Rush power-play goal, but Thinel followed with his second goal at the 11:02 mark and Tochkin added his second five minutes later to pad the lead to 4-1 and force the Rush to bench Boron in favor of Danny Battochio.
    “When they cut it to 2-1, we needed something to happen and I was lucky enough to score,” Thinel said. “You could see that hurt their morale. Then Tochkin scores again and the way Mathieu Corbeil was playing goal, you felt good about our chances.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Miller scored on a Tochkin assist at the 7:30 mark of the third period to seal the victory.
    The game had been scheduled for Tuesday night, but a blizzard forced the game to be moved to Wednesday. It didn’t affect the Mavericks’ momentum, however.
    “They were banged up, so it probably helped them more than it helped us,” Thinel said, “but it didn't stop our momentum. We are on a roll right now, we're playing our best hockey of the season and we have to keep doing it in the semifinal round.”
    Corbeil stopped 24 of 25 shots for his second win in the series. He was in the net last Wednesday in the 3-2 overtime victory in Independence.
    “I let both goalies know who was going to play tonight five minutes after our last game,” Hillman said. “They have been outstanding. In the past four games, everyone has been outstanding. How could you ask for anymore from Thinel, Miller, Tochkin and Jardine (who had two assists Wednesday night), our defense and our goalies? They have been amazing, just amazing.”
    Hillman said his team has 24 hours to enjoy the fourth win in a row before starting to prepare for Allen.
    “We'll have 24 hours, and we hope we don't spend all 24 here in Rapid City,” Hillman said. “The highway home is closed because of the snow, so it looks like we will spend tonight here and get going in the morning.”
    Follow Bill Althaus on Twitter: @AlthausEJC

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