The Marine Corps dress blues uniform hung near the door of the Missouri Mavericks locker room, that leads to the training area.

The Marine Corps dress blues uniform hung near the door of the Missouri Mavericks locker room, that leads to the training area.

In perfect script, someone wrote Semper Fidelis, “always faithful,” near the game notes coach Scott Hillman printed on a large chalkboard, before the team left for Rapid City, S.D., late Monday night.

“That’s our inspiration,” goaltender Gerry Festa said, pointing to one of the most recognized and distinct dress uniforms in the United States armed services.

“We have a fan who brought the uniform in to get us inspired for the game Sunday night. After listening to what her husband went through as a member of the Marines, it made what we had to do seem like nothing.

As Festa talked about the uniform, his voice was soft and his eyes were moist.

“Her husband went through a lot for his country. I was inspired – oh, was I ever inspired – and the boys were inspired too. We went out and played a great game Sunday night, but it wasn’t quite good enough to win.

“But this is a seven-game series. They’re going home and all the pressure is going to be on Rapid City. We can’t wait for Game 3.”

Game 3 of the Central Hockey League Northern Conference semifinals will be at 7:35 p.m. Central time and fans can watch the must-win contest at the Independence Events Center as the Mavericks are hosting another watch party.

“We want our fans to get to watch their team,” Mavericks president and general manager Brent Thiessen said. “It means some long hours for our staff back home, but I think they enjoy the party as much as the fans.”

More than 400 fans attended the first watch party, and that same number is expected tonight at the free event.

“We heard we had more fans at the Events Center than they had in Mississippi when we won the first playoff series,” Hillman said, grinning. “The boys loved hearing that.

“Our fans are so special. Like the grandma who brought her husband’s Marine uniform to inspire the boys. I know I was inspired and they were, too. Our fans want us to win so badly, and we’re going to do everything we can Wednesday to give them a big win.”

Rapid City won Game 1 by  a 5-1 score and seemed to barely break a sweat.

Game 2 was a different story.

“Scott’s defensive plan was just amazing in Game 2,” said Festa, who was in the nets in the second game of the series. “They had 47 shots in the first game and just 25 in the second.

“The defense was amazing. We’re getting better each game and I think we’re going to continue to get better as the series goes on.”

Mavericks captain Carlyle Lewis agrees.

“All the pressure is on Rapid City because they’re supposed to beat us,” Lewis said. “A break here or there and we might have won that second game. Even though we’re down 0-2, we’re really confident.

“I can’t wait to get to Rapid City. And I know the rest of the guys on the team feel the same way.”

Slowly, one by one, the players packed their bags and headed out of the locker room. Most of them cast a solemn glance at the dress blue uniform.

“That man gave everything for his country,” Mavericks forward Toby Lafrance said. “And we’re going to give everything for our fans. We’re on a mission.”