Harry Truman would have loved Charlie Effinger.

Harry Truman would have loved Charlie Effinger.

While the 33rd President of the United States, and Independence’ s most famous resident, coined the phrase, “The buck stops here,” Effinger, the Missouri Mavericks newest goaltender, lives by the motto, “The puck stops here.”

Effinger, who was 4-1 with the Mavericks entering Friday’s game against Tulsa, is 12-4 overall and leads the Central Hockey League with a microscopic 2.39 goals-against average.

“It all starts with the goaltender,” Mavericks defender Carlyle Lewis said, “and we have two of the best in Effinger and (Gerry) Festa. Charlie came over here from Allen (Texas) and made an immediate impact.

“When you have the great goaltender in the net, you just feel more confident as a player. We feel like if we score a goal or two, we’ re going to win. And that’s a great feeling when you’re in a tight playoff race.”

The Mavericks know that each of their last 10 games will have a playoff feel as they, Tulsa and Mississippi battle for the fifth and final playoff spot in the Northern Conference.

“It’s all so exciting,” said Effinger, a native of Belleville, Ill., who attended St. Louis University High and Webster Groves high schools in St. Louis while watching former Fort Osage High School standout Albert Pujols star for the St. Louis Cardinals.

“My folks are just three hours away, so they can come watch our games – although I have three younger brothers who play in college, so my parents are spread kind of thin trying to catch all of us. And this is the greatest place to play hockey in the CHL.

“When I played for Allen on Jan. 31 (a 3-0 Mavericks victory), I couldn’t believe the energy level in the Events Center.

“My dad even commented on it after the game – and a lot of the fans were yelling against me. I thought, ‘Wow, what would it be like to have them cheering for me?’ ”

He found out on Feb. 8 when he was named as the player to be named to complete the trade of Mavs defenseman Sean Perkins to the Allen Americans.

“I just love it here,” said Effinger, one of eight American players on the Mavericks. “It’s already feeling like home. My teammates made me feel like a part of the team – no, make that a part of the family – within the first few days and Coach (Scott) Hillman is a great, great coach.

“And let’s be honest. I’m a 24-year-old guy playing a kid’s game. How lucky can you be?”

Effinger was in the net Tuesday when the Mavericks overcame a slow start to gain a 4-3 shootout win over Tulsa and momentarily jump to the fifth spot in the standings.

When asked about performing in a shootout, Effinger grinned and said, “I was talking to one of the linesmen and I asked him, ‘Does it get any better than this?’ The fans were screaming, it was a must win, all the things were going on with Jeff (Christian) and his family (Christian’ s 8-year-old daughter recently had surgery at Children’ s Mercy Hospital) and we found a way to win that game.

“It was just such an amazing night. And I know our fans were as excited as we were. That’s what makes this place so special. That’s why I want to play here as long as the Mavericks want me.”

If he keeps playing like he has this past month, that could be a long, long time.

“When Charlie played here for Allen, the fans really made an impact on him,” Hillman said. “When Allen decided they were going to make a move at goaltender, he asked to come to our team.

“We are so excited about having a goaltender of his caliber. We have two very good goaltenders, two guys who give us a real shot to win every game – and the way the playoff race is right now, we’re going to need a lot of wins over the last month of the season.”

Although Festa was in the net Friday night against Tulsa, Effinger is expected to be back on the ice Saturday night, when the Mavericks play host to Wichita in a 7:05 p.m. game at the Events Center.

“I’ll be totally honest with you,” Effinger said, “I don’t think about personal stats or who starts the games. All I care about is winning – and that’s the approach every one of my teammates takes.

“As long as we’re all on the same page and working hard every night, I think a lot of good things could happen for this team. I love being a part of the Mavericks. The players we have right now are pretty special, so are our fans.

“When the fans really get it going, it energizes the guys on the team. We’re always talking about how special it is to play at the Events Center.”