The mood was light and relaxed in the Missouri Mavericks locker room Thursday morning.

The mood was light and relaxed in the Missouri Mavericks locker room Thursday morning.

The players gathered a bit before their scheduled practice session to put the finishing touches on a Christmas gift program for two families selected by the Comprehensive Mental Health Services of Independence.

If they weren’t talking about their gifts, they were talking about the team’s struggles at home – and how to remedy them.

The Mavericks have one of the best road records in the Central Hockey League at 9-3-2, but are just 2-7-1 at home. They lost 4-2 to Laredo Tuesday and face the Bucks again tonight in a 7:05 p.m. game at the Independence Events Center.

“If I knew what was wrong at home, I’d tell Coach (Scott Hillman) and he would fix it,” forward Andrew Courtney said. “I know the best Christmas present we could give our fans would be a win Friday night – and believe me, that is all the guys in this locker room are thinking about.”

A crowd of 5,278 fans watched last Tuesday’s loss to Laredo. The game started with a bang as Ed McGrane scored off an assist from Sebastien Thinel just six minutes in the first period.

But after that, the Bucks dominated.

“We love our fans and want to play well at home,” said Thinel, the Mavericks captain this season. “No one is more disappointed than the players in this locker room when we don’t play well at home – and we haven’t played well at home all season.

“We go on the road and are loose and don’t try to do anything fancy, and we win. Maybe we need to take that approach at home. Maybe we try too hard at home.

“We got three points last weekend (with an overtime loss to Quad City at Moline, Ill., and an overtime win Sunday in Evansville, Ind.), and we were all hoping that we would win Tuesday and get five points and a modest winning streak and we would come into Friday’s game with a lot of confidence.

“But we seem to make mistakes at home we don’t make on the road. It is very frustrating for all of us. All teams go through stretches like this at some point of the season, and we’re going through it now.

“And unfortunately, we are going through it at home.”

Rookie John-Scott Dickson, who has been one of the hottest Mavericks with a hat trick in the win at Evansville, is brutally honest in his appraisal of the squad.

“To be totally honest with you, getting a hat trick or scoring goals doesn’t mean a thing to me if we don’t win,” Dickson said, “and we can’t seem to find a way to win at home.

“And that frustrates all of us. I know this will sound like a cliché, but we’re a team and all we care about is team success. I think the problems at home are more mental than physical.

“It’s like we’re playing not to lose, instead of playing to win. Everyone on this team is on the same page when it comes to playing as a team and playing hard.

“We need to play at home like we do on the road. If we can do that, we’ll start having some success at home. When you skate out on the ice and see 5,000 fans in the building on a Tuesday night, there is nothing you want any more than to win for them.

“And we’re going to find a way to correct this problem, and we’re going to start giving our fans something to cheer about.”