Sunday, November 24, 2013

St. Charles Chill 5 at Missouri Mavericks 3 (CHL) - November 23, 2013

A couple of weeks ago I noticed that Sporting Kansas City would host the second leg of their MLS semi-final the night before the Chargers and Chiefs game. I made plans to attend, but as game day approached, so did a major cold front. By Saturday evening, it was well below freezing and I didn't have the necessary winter clothes to withstand a couple of hours outside. All that didn't matter though, as when I arrived at my hotel,  they had a flyer with the weekend's activities, including a CHL game in nearby Independence. It was a battle of Missouri, with the Mavericks hosting the St. Charles Chill, an expansion team. This was a cheaper, closer, and more interesting option to me, so I immediately headed over to the Independence Events Center, about 8 miles east of the Kansas City Sports Complex.

When I arrived, I was surprised at how many cars were in the lot. I am not used to the CHL being so popular, but Missouri has won three consecutive Franchise of the Year awards, and their fans come out in droves. As I made my way to the ticket office, I noticed a gentleman with an extra, and quickly negotiated with him to relieve him of his burden. As he said "It's too f'n cold to argue". Turned out to be a lucky break for me as the game was sold out, with all 5,800 tickets gone, although there were a few empty seats. I was sitting in the 7th row inside one blue line, a good seat for the action but not for pictures.

I was amazed by how crowded the concourse was. Don't these people know this is the CHL? If the NHL is looking to expand, Kansas City certainly has a good fan base. As I looked for something to eat, I noticed a coupon on my ticket for a free hot dog or soda. This is a smart idea that rewards season-ticket holders; this coupon would not be attached to tickets bought at the box office. I picked up a hot dog (free stuff in Independence!) and headed to my seat.

The game was also a pleasant surprise. Low-level minor league hockey is no longer a game characterized by blood and fighting, as portrayed in "Slap Shot". Instead, it is fast and entertaining affair with some nice plays and good saves. Of course there are your usual post-whistle scuffles, but just one boring fight in this one. It is clear that fighting is on its way out in hockey - what the NHL and other proponents of fighting haven't realized is that getting rid of it will not cause any hockey fans to stop going to the game, but it will bring in a new set of fans who will appreciate watching the game as it should be played.

This was the second of a back-to-back weekend set between the two clubs, with Missouri prevailing 5-4 on Friday night. The Mavericks came in at 10-2 for third overall in the 10-team circuit, while St. Charles, one of two expansion teams (the other is in Brampton!) was 2-9-2 and dead last.

The Mavericks struck midway through the first when Sebastian Thinel was left alone at the side of the net for about an hour (slight exaggeration) and when Eric Castonguay finally got the puck to him, Thinel had no trouble putting the puck past Robert Moss (above, lamenting his lost shutout).

The game changed in the second period when just a minute in, Colten Hayes was given a 5-minute major and game misconduct for kneeing. It was announced as a penalty for tripping and a 10-minute misconduct, and most fans had no idea what was happening, but the call was correct as Hayes had laid out his opponent, who had to be helped off the ice. The Chill scored three times on the ensuing power play, including goals from Steve Makway (above), Jordan Fox, and Martin Hlinka (celebrating below).

A beautiful goal from Kyle O'Kane made it 4-1 before the end of the period and the Chill had this one on ice. Another power-play marker from Fox just two minutes into the final frame settled the game.

With a few minutes left, fans started to leave, which gave me a chance to to move around to try to get pictures from a different angle. I went behind the net to snap the above picture, and then as I moved to another spot, I missed a goal from Castonguay. I snapped a picture of the scoreboard and then decided to head out, only to miss a final goal for Missouri.

I always enjoy finding events unexpectedly, and this was a fun game. One errant knee cost the Mavericks the game, but the fans didn't seem to mind much.


The CHL lost two teams with the Fort Worth Brahmas going inactive and Bloomington moving to the SPHL. This screws up my Quest for 400, so I'm going to revisit it and come up with something more consistent and structured.

For now though, this was my 450th venue visited. Arrowhead Stadium will be 451, check back for an update on that  tomorrow.



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