SIN BIN BLOG: DO OR DIE

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Their backs are against the wall. There is no tomorrow. It's do or die. It's a must-win situation. Win or go home. Alright, now that we have all of the clichés out of the way, let's get down to business.

Game 5. What an absolute gut-punch that was. The Mavericks and Sundogs went toe to toe, punch for punch, hit for hit, and goal for goal in what was the most entertaining playoff game that the league has seen so far. The Mavs trailed entering the third period, only to get a boost from the most unlikely player on the roster. Pete Massar was signed prior to the game, and threw the social media world into a frenzy as everyone was asking about the new player in the number sixteen sweater with no name plate.

Massar has become an overnight sensation amongst the Orange Army, and nearly cemented his name in the team's history books. The forward out of the University of Vermont scored to tie the game at two, and later gave the Mavs a 3-2 lead with his second of the night. As far as a professional debut goes, you can't get much better than that. As the Mavs were clinging to their newly found lead late in the third period, the ideas for this blog post were already running through my head, in particular, something based around Bill Murray's iconic "Cinderella Story" scene in "Caddyshack" (my mind really wanders late at night). Game 5 of the 2014 playoffs was going to be one of the most dramatic, and unlikely wins that this team and its fans had ever seen.

We all know what happened. Arizona pulled Engelage for an extra attacker, and Justin Pender blasted one past Shane Owen to tie the game with 29 seconds on the clock. The Mavs were 29 seconds away from heading back to The IEC with a 3-2 series lead, a recipe that looked like ultimate doom for the Sundogs. However, after 90 minutes and 28 seconds of hockey, Johan Ryd (who has since been elected Mayor of Prescott Valley) forced a turnover in the neutral zone and roofed a wrister to propel the Sundogs to a 4-3 win in a thrilling (yet nauseating) game.

I'm not going to lie, I'm still trying to get over that loss. I thought that the Mavs, for the most part, played a pretty good game, much unlike the stinkers that we saw in Games 2 & 3. I was 70% into celebration mode when Pender pulled off his Grinch impersonation, stealing a victory from the jaws of defeat. Even after that, when Shane Owen was on his back, lying in the crease with Sundogs forward Sebastian Geoffrion about to put home the game winner and the Mavs goalie managed to get his glove up just enough to make one of the most spectacular saves that I've ever seen, I knew that the Mavs would somehow come away with a win. I was wrong, and it hurt.

Now it's time to put up or shut up (another cliché), or the best team in the history of the Mavericks will pack up and head home, saddled with the most disappointing end to a season to date for this organization. We all knew that this series wouldn't be your typical number one seed versus number eight seed matchup. Let's face it, for the last few months of the season, Arizona was one of the best teams in the league. I say one of the best, because every team was still looking up at the Mavericks, as they sat atop the standings, notching win after win, and raising our expectations every time that they took the ice. It's not our fault that we all expected this team to eventually get over the hump and make it to the Finals. Coach Hillman, Sebastien Thinel (when he's not being handed an absolutely ridiculous suspension), Eric Castonguay, Dave Pszenyczny, Shane Owen, Andrew Courtney, Mike Ramsay, Colt King, and the rest of the Mavericks are responsible for us expecting the very best every game. After all, that's what they put on display for the majority of the regular season. We didn't set the bar high. They did that themselves. So now it's time to stop talking about goals and expectations. It's time to start achieving them. Orange Pride.

 

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SIN BIN BLOG: A MUCH NEEDED.....LOSS?

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We've talked before about how a season is like a roller coaster, in that there are many ups and downs, but that is what makes it so enjoyable. Well, we haven't had to deal with many downs this season. For the better part of the season, the Missouri Mavericks were one of the elite teams in the Central Hockey League. It was an incredibly consistent season, in regards to the standings at least. The Mavs won a lot of games decisively, but also won their fair share of games that they shouldn't have.

I think that's what makes this past weekend so tough. On Friday night, we witnessed the Mavs do what we all hoped they would, continue their dominance on the Arizona Sundogs. Even with a third period surge, the Mavs still managed to take Game One of the best of seven series by a two-goal margin, but we all know that it wasn't as close as the final score may have led you to believe. What was even more impressive with the win on Friday is that it seemed like Arizona threw everything they had plus the kitchen sink at the Mavs, and the boys in orange just smiled and kept piling on the goals. After the display on Friday, I really thought that my previous prediction of a six game series might have been off-base.

With Game Two on home ice, we had every reason to believe that the Mavs would take care of business, and take a stranglehold on this series before hitting the road to Arizona. Boy were we wrong. The Sundogs smothered the Mavs from the opening faceoff to the final horn, with the lone burst from the Mavs coming after a second period goal from Andrew Courtney. As confident as I was leaving the arena on Friday, I was equally as skeptical on Sunday. Arizona took it to the Mavs in the corners, in the neutral zone, in front of Shane Owen (which led to multiple goals), and most importantly, on the scoreboard. Even with all of that, when the Mavs tied the game at two, the thought immediately crossed my mind that this would be one of those games that they have no business winning, but will find a way to come out on top. It turns out I was wrong once again.

Okay now, stay with me here. I'm going to say something that will sound insane at first, but hear me out. Maybe, just maybe, the Mavs needed to lose that game. Let's be honest, for the past two months, we've been incredibly spoiled. We've watched the Mavs win game after game, knocking off team after team en route to the best record in the league. From February 1st through the Governor's Cup clinching game against St. Charles on March 25th, the Mavs went 19-5-0. That's just an insane run over a two-month span. We expected them to win every time they took the ice, and they nearly accomplished that. I'm sure at some point, the players thought that they were nearly invincible on the ice, and even if they made a few mistakes, guys like Shane Owen, Eric Castonguay, or Colt King would step up and save they day, and that was the case for a while.

So, maybe the Mavs needed a kick in the hindquarters to remind them that nothing comes easy. Maybe they needed a reminder on the notion that they are not invincible. Maybe they needed a reminder that the regular season doesn't mean anything, that they're previous record against Arizona is worth didley squat, that if they really want to make everything that they've accomplished up to this point worth-while, they need to get to work. Oh, and maybe, just maybe, Arizona just woke the sleeping bear. Orange Pride.

 

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SIN BIN BLOG: FIRST ROUND PREDICTIONS

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It's the most wonderful time of the year! No, it's not Christmas time, although it might as well be. I'm talking about playoff hockey. It's the time of the year when checks are harder, passes are crisper, and goals are sweeter. Two teams, giving everything that they have including blood, sweat, teeth, bones, ligaments, tendons, whatever it takes to be the one to raise the cup in May.

Like most of you, I've been following the Central Hockey League for a while now. I can't remember a playoff bracket that is as evenly matched as this year's competitors. I would not be shocked by any of the lower seeds knocking off one of the "big boys." The parity has been terrific this year, and I think that not only is it great for the overall health of the league, it has created a scenario in which we could see a memorable postseason.

Enough jibber-jabber. Trying to pick which team will raise the cup right now is as easy as knocking Obi Aduba off his feet, so I just decided to focus on the opening round. Here goes nothing:

 

Rapid City Rush vs. Quad City Mallards

One thing that every series has in common is terrific goaltending. This one is no different. Tim Boron of the Rush and Ty Rimmer of Quad City were both finalists for the Most Outstanding Goaltender award this season, and both have put their respective teams on their backs during rough patches. Quad City gets a nice boost with the return of Jim McKenzie, who has spent the majority of the season in the AHL. Both teams have dealt with injuries lately, even the aforementioned Boron. Both teams skate well and have guys who can finish with the best of them. I think Rapid City has the edge defensively, but Quad City comes into the postseason having won four in a row, and seem to finally be getting relatively healthy. Rapid City, however, has been without Konrad Reeder, Eric Giosa, Justin Faryna, and Ryan Palmer. Reeder is expected to return to the lineup this weekend, and could be the wild card for the Rush. I'm going to go with my gut though. I'm taking the upset in this one.

Prediction: Quad City in six games

 

Allen Americans vs. Brampton Beast

I feel like I'm cheating on this prediction, especially after watching the defending champs thump the Beast to the tune of 7-2 in Game One of this series. Don't think for second that Allen will breeze into the second round though. I have a feeling that we will see a much different Brampton team for Game Two. In fact, I think that this is the only series that goes the full seven games. In the end, Allen's quest for back to back championships stays alive, in large part to Bryan Pitton becoming a household name around the league.

Prediction: Americans in seven games

 

Denver Cutthroats vs. Tulsa Oilers

Do you want to talk about firepower? Go look at some of the numbers that were put up by guys playing in this series, most notably CHL Most Valuable Player Garrett Bembridge, and MVP Finalist Ben Gordon. I want every game in this series to finish 10-9 in overtime, which I'm sure won't happen because of Kent Patterson and Shane Madolora. I just think that Tulsa is completely overmatched in this series. Denver is better offensively, defensively, on special teams, and between the pipes. This one is all Fish.

Prediction: Denver in five games

 

Missouri Mavericks vs. Arizona Sundogs

This is not your typical #1 versus #8 seed matchup. Arizona is a very good team, with a very good goaltender, and probably made themselves an even stronger team with the recent release of Garrett Clarke. This is not the Sundogs team that the Mavs swept during the regular season. The additions of David Rutherford and (familiar face) Brandon Coccimiglio, along with the emergence of Andrew Engelage (the CHL's Most Outstanding Goaltender), this is a Sundogs team that is capable of beating any team in this league, especially those who take them lightly. Their biggest problem may be getting in their own way, as they lead the CHL in penalty minutes this season. If they find themselves taking a lot of penalties, they will also find themselves on the golf course sooner than they'd like to be, considering the Mavs have the league's best powerplay (and penalty kill, but who's counting). I think that the Mavs work their way to Round Two, but not without a tremendous fight.

Prediction: Missouri in six games

 

So there you have it. Quad City, Allen, Denver, and Missouri will all advance to the Semifinals. I'm allowed to think ahead as a feeble blogger, but I can't imagine any of the players in the Mavs' locker room are doing the same. Regardless of anyone's predictions, playoff hockey is here, and I for one, am ready to get the party started. Orange Pride.

 

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SIN BIN BLOG: THE MOMENT IS OVER

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The Missouri Mavericks have accomplished a lot in their near-five year history. They've won numerous awards, sold out The IEC time after time, and have made the postseason every year of the existence. Now it's time to celebrate a new achievement.

For the first time in franchise history, the Mavericks captured the Governor's Cup, awarded to the champions of 2014-02-15 Missouri Mavericks vs. Allen Americans 7135the regular season, with that comes home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs. After heart-breaking losses in Game 7 of the Semifinals each of the last two seasons, we all knew how important it would be make sure that, if faced with the same scenario, that the decisive Game 7 would be played in front of the Best Fans in the CHL. Coach Hillman and several of the players talked about it after Tuesday night's clinching game. The common theme from everyone was "this was the goal from the start." Obviously, every team wants to finish atop the standings, but it has a different meaning for this organization. After coming so close, and losing to the eventual league champions, the past two seasons, being able to clinch home-ice throughout the entirety of the postseason is monumental to say the least.

So, Tuesday night was a great night. A thorough beatdown of our cross-state rivals, check. A shutout from our backup goaltender who is playing his best hockey of the season, check. The highest outpouring of goals in a game all season, check. Seeing a hat trick, a minute of madness goal, and burgers, check. Accomplishing a goal that was set from day one, check. Do you want to know what the best part of Tuesday night was for me? It was that after the game, there were no celebrations. There was no party in the locker room. Everything was business as usual. Every player and coach acted as if this was just another win. This team had every right to get a little goofy, and enjoy the moment, but as soon as they got back to that locker room, the moment was over.

That is what makes this team so special. They had just accomplished something that no other team that has donned the orange sweater had done, and they all knew that if they didn't finish the job, it meant nothing. Sure the banners that hang in the rafters of The IEC are nice, but there's only one banner that truly matters. I know 2014-03-01 Missouri Mavericks vs. Wichita Thunder 11129that we all get sick of the Allen fans and their constant reminders that they are the champs, but they are 100% correct. Wow, that felt so unnatural to say out loud. No one remembers who scored the most goals, or had the best penalty kill in a season. No one remembers who brought home the most Best of the Best awards. No one remembers who the regular season champions were. Unless your team wins the last game of the season, no one remembers anything that you've accomplished along the way.

So, as fans, we can bask in the glory until April 4th. Then, it's time to follow the lead of guys like Matt Stephenson, who shook off losing out on the Most Outstanding Defenseman award by saying "there's bigger hardware out there." This is a guy that has, quite possibly, played the best season that we've ever seen from a Mavericks' defenseman, lose out on an award by just a few votes, but knows that the ultimate goal is well within their reach. If the Mavs are able to complete the dream and raise the Cup in front of 5,800 hell-raising hockey hooligans, no one will remember who won anything else, because nothing else will matter. Orange Pride.

 

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SIN BIN BLOG: MYTHBUSTER

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2013-12-20 Missouri Mavericks vs. St. Charles Chill  93 of 244

 

The Missouri Mavericks had a lot to prove over the last few days. They were headed north to take on the Brampton Beast in the lone series of the season on Canadian soil against a team that took it to them on their own ice earlier in the season. Road trips are always tough, but long ones like this are even harder, especially when they are marred by bus issues along the way. At this point in the season, that's all irrelevant. Every point is the most important point of the season. The Mavs could not afford to lay an egg in the Great White North.

All things considered, we'd all have to consider the series in Brampton a success. Obviously, we all wanted six points, including the players, but to walk away with four points in three games against a veteran team like Brampton is definitely a success. The Mavs had their chances to complete the sweep, but a familiar foe in Scott Howes (9 goals in 5 games against the Mavs this season) reared his devious head in game three to thwart that dream. Still, four out of six possible points? I'll take it.

Now, it's time to strike a few nerves along the fan base. It's been a while since I've caused some type of outrage or criticism. I feel like I'm getting rusty. I always like to see the feedback from the fans after a loss. After a win, the message, for the most part, is the same. However, after a loss, we all feel the need to figure out exactly why we lost the game, and what needs to be done to fix it before the next game. I'm not poking fun at these people. I'm just as guilty. However, there's a common myth that is spreading like the plague.

I've seen it hundreds and hundreds of times. It goes something like "why do we always shut it down offensively when getting a lead? We can't just lay back and play defense for an entire period." It's a very valid point, and I agree that it has happened throughout the season. Coach Hillman has even acknowledged it himself. However this has become the go-to reason for every lead that has slipped away. I literally see it after every loss.

I'd like to reiterate that there is some validity to that sentiment. However, it's important to realize that just because a team comes back and possibly wins a game in which the Mavericks had a lead, it doesn't mean that the Mavs shut it down and rested on their laurels in their own zone. Sunday's game in Brampton is a perfect example. The Mavs never shut it down. They racked up over 40 shots on goal, and had as many shots in the third period as they did in the first period. Sometimes, the opposing team makes adjustments to their game plan, which especially occurs after falling behind early. There's a saying in hockey that "the two-goal lead is the worst lead to have." That's pretty damn accurate. How many times have we seen a team fight back from two goals down against the Mavs? It's happened quite a bit this season, but to peg it on the Mavs or Coach Hillman playing it safe is taking the easy way out.

It's always easier to criticize after a loss. Trust me, no one knows that better than me, but I invite you all to take notice of the little things that might allow a team to jump back into a game that appeared to be the Mavs for the taking. Pay attention to which team is winning battles in the corners, or forcing turnovers in the neutral zone. Watch when a forward tries to jump the rush a little early, and creates an open passing lane in the defensive zone. Make a note when the Mavs turn the puck over in their own end. Chances are you find a good reason why a team that was down by a couple of goals climbed their way back into it.

I suppose the moral of this story is to criticize all you want. I actually encourage it, because it shows that you care and that you want this team to play their best every time their skates touch the ice.  In fact, as it was pointed out on Twitter, it's your right and responsibility as fans to criticize. All that I am asking is to criticize for the right reasons, rather than repeating the catchy phrase of the day. Orange Pride.

 

Other notes:

- Congrats to Shane Owen for breaking the single season wins record set by Charlie Effinger.

- Congrats to Eric Castonguay for tying the single season goal record set by Kenton Miller.

- Congrats to Sebastien Thinel for moving into 2nd place in career assists in the CHL.

- Congrats to Mac for being awesome. 

 

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