• Cole Ruwe is Mavs’ unsung hero

  • If there was a Central Hockey League award for the Turner Conference’s unsung hero, Missouri Mavericks coach Scott Hillman says he knows who would get his vote.

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  • If there was a Central Hockey League award for the Turner Conference’s unsung hero, Missouri Mavericks coach Scott Hillman says he knows who would get his vote.
    “It would be Cole Ruwe in a unanimous decision,” Hillman said following a Tuesday morning practice session that had the Mavericks coach a bit more fired up than usual.
    “Over the course of the season, Cole became one of the most dependable players on the ice. He and Blake Forsyth tied for the team lead with a plus-26 – and the guys who go out and score goals will tell you that that’s an overrated statistic.
    “But I played defense, and let me tell you this – when I was at a plus rating, I was playing much better hockey than when I was at a minus rating. I don’t care what anyone says – it’s the stat coaches look at.
    “Talk to the other guys on the team and see what they say about Cole. They’ll tell you the same thing.”
    The league’s top goaltender, Robby Nolan, raves about one of his favorite defenders.
    “When the other teams have their dangerous line out there, Cole and Blake are going to be on the ice,” Nolan said. “You know I love the defensemen because they don’t get any recognition, and they’re the biggest reason I had so much success this season.
    “Cole is a smart player, and he’ll block a puck with his face if he has to. He’s that kind of a player.”
    Derek Pallardy, who split much of his time this season between offense and defense, agrees with Nolan’s assessment.
    “Cole was one of the MVPs of the team,” Pallardy said. “He and Blake teamed up on the same line and were amazing – I mean, they really were amazing.”
    Ruwe and Forsyth led the Mavericks with a plus-26 (goals scored minus goals against while playing), which was fourth best in the league. The Mavericks had the best defense in the CHL during the regular season and allowed a league-low 173 goals in 66 games played (2.62 per game).
    After leading the league for most of the season on the penalty kill, Missouri finished second in the league with an 84.9 percent penalty kill rate. Missouri’s 46 power-play goals allowed tied for second fewest in the league.
    Ruwe and company played a key role in the success of the penalty kill unit, which team captain Carlyle Lewis calls “the power kill unit” because of its success.
    As the Mavericks head to Colorado, to take on the Eagles at 8:05 p.m. Friday (KCWJ, 1030 AM), Ruwe is the playoff’s best rags to riches story.
    “Not bad for a guy who got cut before the season even started,” Hillman said. “We actually let him go before the start of the season because we had three goaltenders and needed to find out who was going to make the team (rookie Zane Kalemba was eventually released).
    Page 2 of 2 - “When we made the final decision on the goaltender, we got Cole back immediately, and I guess you can say the rest is history. I’d hate to think about this team without him.”
    Ruwe feels much the same way.
    “I was new to the league, and Hilly felt like I’d fly under the radar and not be picked up by another team when they released me,” Ruwe said, “and I always felt like I’d be back.
    “And once they brought me back, I wanted to stay. With a start like that, for me personally, and with the ups and downs the team has experienced this season, it’s been a real roller-coaster ride. But we’re playing our best hockey right now, and I’m having the time of my life.
    “I didn’t know what to expect his season. I just knew I wanted to do everything in my power to make us a contender for the league championship. And I think we are a legitimate contender.
    “We kept hearing in the first round of the playoffs that the two teams no one wanted to play were us and the (Wichita) Thunder. And we wound up playing each other. It was a tough, physical series, and now we’re ready to begin the second round of the playoffs against a Colorado team that has so many offensive weapons and is so skilled in all areas of the game.”
    Ironically, the Pekin, Ill., native played his first CHL game this season against Bloomington, an Illinois squad that edged the Mavericks 2-1 in a shootout loss.
    “It seems like such a long time ago, but it was kind of ironic to play my first game against a team from Illinois,” Ruwe said. “Playing for the Mavericks has been really special for me this season.
    “The guys on the team, Hilly, the fans – they have all been incredible. We just want to do everything we can to keep this season going. And if we keep playing like we have been the past few weeks, I think we have a good shot at going a long way in the playoffs.”