The St. Charles Chill played their first regular season game in franchise history last night against the Missouri Mavericks and learned a lot about their team on the fly.
The team was held in the game by goaltender Mathieu Corbeil who made save after save in the first period as the Mavericks dominated the majority of the play. Corbeil faced countless odd-man rushes including about five breakaways in the first period alone. As the first period was coming to a close, it looked like the Chill would get out of the first period with a tie, but Mavericks defensemen Anders Franzon intercepted a pass, skated by the Chill's defense and scored the first goal of the season for the Mavericks on a breakaway shot. The period ended with a scrum between Mavericks defensemen Dave Pszenyczny and Chill's forward, Kyle Kraemer. Chill's tough guy, Anthony Pisano came off the bench after the clock reached zero to help break up the scrum and was given a game misconduct for leaving the bench during an altercation.
When asked about the play, the Chill's head coach, Jamie RIvers, declined comment. Pisano however explained a little for us. "At the end of the period, there was little scrum and I just jumped on to help break it up. Kraemer is one of our top guys . For me, I have bring a physical presence and if players are going to take liberties with our players, I'm going to go over and say something. If anything happens, it happens. It's my job to take care of our players and play and it's the refs job to take care of it and I guess they felt it was something they needed to do."
The second period didn't fair any better for the Chill as it was defensemen Sam Posa who scored on a nice one-timer just 1:27 into the period. Colt King and Trevor Kell both assisted on Posa's goal.
After the goal scored, it was much of the same for the Chill. Struggling to keep the Mavericks out of the offensive zone and failing to generate any sustained offense. With around five minutes to go in the period, the Chill started picking up their play more and started controlling the puck. They missed countless tap-in goals and the second ended with the Mavericks being up 2-0.
The third period was a complete turnaround from the first two periods. With Jordan Fox moving back to center after playing the majority of the game on defense, the team dominated puck play. They were trailing in the shot department, 26-12 at the end of the second period but came back to out-shoot the Mavericks 31-28 by the end of the game.
Fox was stuck on the Chill's blue-line due to the Chill being two players short (Pisano, game misconduct and Tony DeHart, injured reserve). Getting a chance to move back to his natural position helped the team move forward offensively. Fox explained how he felt moving back to a forward position, "It was Rivers decision to go with four defensemen and move me back up front. Playing with Kraemer, Costello, and Marty (Hilinka) it makes my job easier. I just try to get in there and find them with the puck. It was tough playing defense the first two periods, then Pisano got tossed, so moving into the third we had nothing to lose so we just went as hard as we can."
Fox also found the score sheet in the third period with the Chill's first goal in franchise history. It was a pretty flukey goal but Fox didn't mind that.. "They are no pictures on the score sheet, so then I can tell people that it was a top shelf goal." Fox laughed after the game. Fox was trying to center the puck to the middle of the ice when the puck to an errant bounce off of Mavericks defensemen, Matt Stephenson's skate and between the legs of MIssouri's goaltender, Shane Owen.
The game was coming to a close with the Chill still trailing 2-1. Coach Jamie Rivers executed one of his timeouts and kept goalies Mathieu Corbeil on the bench during a Chill power-play. It paid off as Fox won the ensuing faceoff back to defensemen David Strathman, who made a quick pass to his defensive partner, Steve Makway. Makway then fed a perfect pass to veteran Martin Hlinka, who made no mistake in putting the puck past Owen to tie the game with 1:11 remaining. The third period ended and the game was headed to overtime.
Overtime was a short back and forth play and we were able to see one of the CHL's new rules implemented as Jordan Fox was called for a contact to the head penalty. However, with the penalty occurring in overtime, it's now only a one minute penalty.
The Chill killed it and overtime ended to take the first game between the Mavericks and the Chill to a five-man shootout.
The Chill would lose to the Mavericks in the shootout as Jordan Fox was the only Chill player to score in the shootout while the Mavericks, John-Scott Dickson, Sebastien Thinel, and Eric Castonguay all scored for the Mavericks.
Mathieu Corbeil stopped 26-of-28 shots in regulation and overtime, while Shane Owen stopped 29-of-31. Corbeil really gave his team a chance to win and was named the first star of the game. He spoke on the loss and how he felt in the game, "I was happy to get back into a game. It felt good just to get the feeling of the puck back and play well. I wasn't scared but I was kind of nervous on how I would do without playing a game in so long. My job is to stop the puck and I tried to stand my ground. They took the lead into the second and the third, but I just tried to keep the team in it. I never know how its going to go any given night, I just control what I can control. We stayed focused on coming out in the third and put the pressure on and being able to get a point."
When asked about if he thought he could win with the Chill, Corbeil gave a very honest and thoughtful answer. "There are guys here who could easily be at a higher level, but since this is home, it's a better fit for them, they decided to play here. We have some incredible players, who I wouldn't say are better than this league, but they are better players in this league. The other team has been playing together for a few years now and this is the first time we played together so it's only going to go up from here."
The Chill play their next game at home this coming Friday against the reigning league champions, the Allen Americans. Puck drops at 7:05.