The Mavericks’ Kellan Tochkin had something to prove heading into game three of the Central Hockey League playoff opening-round series.
To himself. To his Missouri Mavericks teammates. And, of course, to his coach.
Four days ago, Tochkin was benched for the second game of the best-of-seven series against fourth-seeded Rapid City. It was the first time he was ever a “healthy scratch,” he said.
Less than four minutes into sudden-death overtime on Wednesday, Tochkin scored the game-winner as the fifth-seeded Mavericks got the 3-2 win, their first of the series, at the Independence Events Center.
With only 7 seconds left on the power play from Jordan Behler’s hooking penalty, Dave Pszenyczny passed to Tochkin from near the left side of the goal. Tochkin’s shot from 10 feet in front of goaltender Tim Boron went high into the back of the net and sent the 3,708 in attendance into delirium.
“I played like garbage for 60 minutes (during regulation Wednesday), but got a power-play shift,” Tochkin said. “It felt really good. I needed that confidence.”
For the Mavericks, confidence started to show as they it came back from one-goal deficits twice in the game. The game-winner was Missouri’s first lead of the series, which started with 3-0 and 3-1 losses in Rapid City on Friday and Saturday.
“After scoring only one goal there, the guys were struggling with confidence,” said Mavericks coach Scott Hillman, whose team will play host to game four on Friday. “Those goals were huge for us, and even bigger for morale.”
Andrew Courtney scored twice for the Mavericks, each time just minutes after Missouri had surrendered a goal.
Less than four minutes after Rapid City took a 1-0 lead, the Mavericks evened the score for just the second time in the series.
Immediately after killing a 2-minute Courtney roughing penalty, forward Sebastien Thinel collected the puck off the boards in the Mavericks’ zone and found Courtney as he emerged from the penalty box. Courtney received the pass centered near the Rapid City blue line and raced undefended toward Boron, slapping a low shot that deflected off Boron’s pads and trickled into the goal 6:49 into the second period.
“That’s almost luck,” said Courtney, who missed converting a similar breakaway in Rapid City. “I actually told the penalty box attendant: ‘I’m going to get a breakaway here.’ I knew that one had to go into the net.”
Rapid City had scored first on an odd-man rush with 16:52 left in the second. Scott Brannon one-timed a wrist shot that got by Mavericks’ goaltender Mathieu Corbeil glove.
Courtney scored again in the third, this time as he screened Boron in front of the net. Pszenyczny wound up for a shot along the board at the edge of the zone, which Courtney deflected into the goal with less than 10 minutes left in regulation. That tied the game at 2-2 .