Trailing the Alaska Aces by six points for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Mountain Division, the Missouri Mavericks face a must-win scenario every time they step foot on the ice. Wednesday night was no different at the Silverstein Eye Centers Arena, and the task at hand was even more of a challenge with the two-time defending Kelly Cup Champion Allen Americans in town.
The Mavericks have had their struggles with Allen throughout the entire season, with a record of 2-7-1 in the 10 meetings with the Americans coming into Wednesday night’s match-up. Looking to end a three-game skid and stay alive in the playoff hunt, Missouri could ill-afford to have those struggles continue. As it had been in every game against Allen this season, Wednesday night was a rough and rowdy affair between the two rivals.
The Mavericks needed to get off to a good start, as lethargic first periods have been their bugaboo throughout most of the season. Matt Finn would give the Mavericks the early lead, firing a wrister from the point through a ton of traffic in front that snuck past Allen netminder Riley Gill for his ninth goal of the season. Missouri would double their lead after some slick stick-handling from Conner Bleackley and an even prettier feed to Dane Fox, who blasted a one-timer through the five hole of Gill for his team-leading 29th goal of the campaign to make it 2-0 Mavericks with just over eight minutes to play in the first. Allen struck back six minutes later as Wade MacLeod roofed a wrister over the shoulder of Missouri goalie Stephon Williams for a shorthanded goal.
The 2-1 Mavericks lead would hold until early in the third period when Allen defenseman Joel Chouinard jumped into a shorthanded rush and fired a wrister coming down the slot to beat Williams to tie the game at two. The third period was a wild one with multiple punches thrown and an endless number of post-whistle scrums. Things boiled over with just under three minutes to play when Allen defenseman David Makowski cross-checked Missouri forward Matt Robertson from behind after a whistle, sending him to the ice face first and bringing all 10 skaters together for more shenanigans. Makowski was desperately trying to get his hands on anyone in a Mavericks sweater, so much that his forceful way with the linesman including a two-handed shove as he entered the penalty box earned him a game misconduct for physical abuse of an official, to add to his five minute major for cross checking and game misconduct for the earlier infraction.
The Mavericks were in a prime spot with a five-minute power play with 2:44 left in regulation that would carry over into overtime. The Allen penalty kill came up big once again, as it had all night, killing all seven Missouri chances with the man-advantage while adding the two aforementioned shorthanded goals. On the ensuing Mavericks possession after the power play expired, one of the newest Mavericks, defenseman Alex Brooks who was acquired from South Carolina at the trade deadline, found himself between the hash marks with the puck on his stick. He fired a wrister goalward that beat Gill just inside the post to give the Mavericks the overtime victory. Williams put on a brilliant display throughout the night, making big stops in bigger moments to keep the high powered Allen offensive attack suppressed. He finished with 33 saves on 35 Allen shots for the win.
With the win, Missouri pulls to within four points of Alaska for the final playoff spot in the division with both teams having nine games left on their respective schedules. Alaska currently owns the tiebreaker over the Mavericks as they have more regulation wins, so Missouri will need to overtake Alaska in the standings to earn a trip to the postseason. The Mavericks will look to keep their playoff hopes alive on Friday night as they travel to Intrust Bank Arena to take on the Wichita Thunder.