By Nick Hartman:
INDEPENDENCE, MO: While mascots scattered the arena and the Orange Army cheered, the Missouri Mavericks were playing the “game of the year”. When the final buzzer blew, the Mavericks were on top with a 5-1 win over the Rapid City Rush in game two of a two-game series.
The Mavericks finished “Crushing the Rush”, gave the fans something to cheer about and gave MAC, the Missouri Mavericks mascot, an amazing birthday present.
“We changed a lot of systems overnight,” Mavericks head coach, Scott Hillman said. “The guys responded really well, even with Matt Stephenson [defender] being suspended for the night, which dropped us to four defensemen. So we had some work to do but the boys really responded the way we needed and gave the fans a much deserved win.”
With a makeshift starting line-up that consisted of captain, Sebastien Thinel starting on the blue line, the Mavericks came out strong in the first period. The Mavericks started the attack just a minute twenty-six into the game when they had a three-on-two rush. Mike Ramsey delivered a crossing pass to Eric Castonguay who hit the left corner, in stride, for a goal. The Mavericks attacked once again at the 5:03 mark when Andrew Courtney and Sebastien Thinel went two-on-one and Thinel delivered a crossing pass to Courtney who sent the puck into the net. Just 22 second later, the Mavericks scored their third and final goal of the period when Trevor Kell took a backhander to the net for a goal.
“It was huge,” Mavericks Captain Sebastein Thinel. “Taking the lead with the goals right in the first. It was great. I think we are a team that feeds off the crowd and our momentum shifted after all that.”
The Mavericks went into the second period with a strong 3-0 lead and knew they had to keep the momentum up. At the 5:10 mark, with just 37 seconds left on the power play, Trevor Kell and John Scott-Dickson capitalized. Kell sent a pass from the boards to Dickson who sent a wrist-shot under the five-hole of, Rapid City goalie, Tim Boron. The only goal for the Rapid City Rush came at the 14:17 mark, when Winston Day-Chief and Jesse Schultz went 2v1. Schultz sent a strong set-up pass to Day-Chief who went top-shelf on a wrist shot for a goal. The final Mavericks goal came with 1:11 remaining on a Andrew Courtney power-shot that knocked off the goalie water-bottle. Eric Castonguay and Sebastien Thinel were credited with assists on the goal.
“It felt great,” Mavericks forward, Andrew Courtney said about his goal in the second period. “It was just one of those plays where you draw it up and we are able to execute on it. With those two guys (Thinel and Castonguay) on you, all you have to do is draw an open space and they’ll find you.”
The third period was full of action but no goals were scored. Captain,Thinel, showed his ‘true grit’ though in the third period as he played every other shift. Thinel dove twice for the puck and helped save two shots from becoming goals as well.
“It wasn’t my regular position,” Thinel said with an ear-to-ear smile on his face. “I knew I looked bad so I did all I could. I played a little defense when I played for Rapid City so I knew I could do it. But normally, I play defense in summer hockey. I just have to have some fun with it and be smart.”
The Mavericks went perfect on special teams, killing both of Rapid City’s power play chances and converting all three power play chances. That was a plus for the Mavericks especially after a tough game the night before.
“It was perfect,” Mavericks forward, Eric Castonguay said in regards to the special teams unit. “Every time you win on the power-play and the penalty-kill, you have a strong chance of winning the game. And tonight the power-play looked really good and on the PK we blocked some shots and cut their shooting chances. So it was huge for us.”