A determined Missouri Mavericks team, that was hoping to rebound from a 5-1 home loss to Rapid City in the opening game of the Northern Conference semifinals, turned in a Sunday night performance coach Scott Hillman called “playoff hockey at its best.”

A determined Missouri Mavericks team, that was hoping to rebound from a 5-1 home loss to Rapid City in the opening game of the Northern Conference semifinals, turned in a Sunday night performance coach Scott Hillman called “playoff hockey at its best.”


Unfortunately for the 3,705 fans at the Independence Events Center, it wasn’t quite good enough to win as the Rush claimed a hard-fought 2-1 victory to take a 2-0 lead in the series.


The next game will be played Wednesday night at Rapid City, S.D.


“We learned a little bit from the first game, how you have to have focus and desire for three periods to beat a great team like Rapid City,” Hillman said.


“We had focus and great desire tonight – but we continue to have problems putting the puck in the back of the net. We had outstanding goaltending tonight from Gerry Festa – you can’t ask for anymore from your goaltender – but when you only score one goal on 39 shots, you need to do something to improve your offense.”


The Mavericks' lone goal came from Bill Vandermeer, who scored at the 14:56 mark of the second period to knot the score at 1-all.


The Mavericks forward came into the zone along the left wing, got around his defender and snuck the puck past Danny Battochio along the near side. Jeff Christian and Jordan Foreman earned assists on the play and the game remained tied after two periods.


Scott Wray’s third-period power play goal proved to be the difference for Rapid City.


“If we keep playing hard, like we did tonight, something has to go our way eventually,” Vandermeer said. “We have to find a way to get two wins at their place to get Game 6 back at the Events Center.”


For the second straight night, the Mavericks forced the pace early in the game and earned the first two power plays. Missouri was unable to convert on either chance, but the Mavs also held Rapid City without a shot on goal for the first 8:15 of the period.. 


Les Reaney gave the Rush a 1-0 lead at 8:01 of the second period when he picked up a loose puck and put it past Festa. Luke Fritshaw earned the assist on the play and the Rush had the opening goal for the second straight night.


After Vandermeer tied the game, Rapid City earned a power play early in the third period and Wray broke the 1-1 tie on a partial breakaway as he lifted his shot over Festa’s shoulder.


Missouri peppered Battochio with 17 shots in the final period, but the Rush goaltender was equal to the task. Rapid City killed all three of the Mavericks power play chances in the third, and Missouri finished 0-for-7 with the man advantage.


“Zero for seven – you’re not going to win many playoff games against a team like Rapid City when you’re zero for seven on power plays,” Christian said. “We ran into a hot goaltender each of the last two nights. There’s a reason he was the Rookie of the Year in the league. He’s very good. Gerry was very good, tonight, too. We just have to rest up and get ready for that third game.”


Festa said a performance like the one he turned in against the Rush would give some pleasure during the regular season.


“In the playoffs, it’s all about winning and losing, and we didn’t win tonight so we have to work hard to find a way to win in Rapid City,” Festa said. “The boys did a great job defensively and we can take a lot of positives away from this game.


“But I’m not going to be personally satisfied until we find a way to win.”