The Missouri Mavericks are opening up the Independence Events Center at 6:30 p.m. tonight so fans can watch the Mavericks take on the Mississippi RiverKings in the third and deciding game of the Northern Conference playoff series.

You don’t have to make the trip to Southaven, Miss., to watch the biggest game of the year for the Missouri Mavericks.

The first-year Central Hockey League team is opening up the Independence Events Center at 6:30 p.m. tonight so fans can watch the Mavericks take on the Mississippi RiverKings in the third and deciding game of the Northern Conference playoff series.

Parking and admission into the Events Center is free and concession stands will be open. The game starts at 7:05 p.m.

The Mavericks won Game 1 Monday night at home, claiming a 4-2 victory over the RiverKings, but Mississippi used an early 2-0 lead Wednesday night to earn a 2-1 victory to even the series at one game each.

“It’s a tough loss, but the boys will bounce back,” Mavericks head coach Scott Hillman by phone said late Wednesday night. “We’re going to be fine. It took a while for the offense to get going. We got a big goal from (Jeff) MacDermid – and we had some other chances.

“We had the puck hit the post, we had a shot go through the goaltender’s legs and somehow, it didn’t find the back of the net – but we’ll come back strong.

“When this team’s back is against the wall, it has always responded.”

Mavericks goaltender Charlie Effinger stopped 30 of 32 shots in the loss and drew rave reviews from his coach.

“Just like last game, Charlie was lights out,” Hillman said. “I think he was screened on both of their goals. Charlie couldn’t have played a better game. The guys played well, we just couldn’t find the back of the net.”

The Mavericks had just one power-play opportunity in the entire game, which brought a chuckle from Hillman.

“It was a physical game, and they get called for one penalty,” Hillman said. “Well, that’s how it goes sometimes.”

Mississippi took their first lead of the series at the 6:57 mark of the first period on a power-play goal from Kevin Truelson. The RiverKings defenseman took a pass from Derek Landmesser and ripped a shot from the left point that beat Effinger stick side.

Missouri didn’t officially record a shot until 10 minutes of the opening period had elapsed and trailed 1-0 heading into the first intermission.

Bobby Chaumont gave the RiverKings a 2-0 lead at 6:47 of the second period when his shot from the right point deflected off a Mavericks defender and into the back of the net. Elias Godoy and goaltender Kyle McNulty assisted on the play, but the two-goal lead was short-lived as Missouri quickly answered.

MacDermid scored his first goal of the postseason just 36 seconds after Chaumont’s goal to cut the RiverKings’ lead in half. Forward Jeff Christian sent a pass from behind the net to MacDermid, who one-timed it to the far side of the net.

The Mavericks wasted a great chance to tie the game with 4:22 remaining in the second period when Derek Pallardy was awarded a penalty shot. Pallardy was unable to convert on the shot and the RiverKings held their one-goal lead.

Missouri was unable to get the equalizer in the third period despite a number of chances. The Mavericks earned their first power play of the game with just under four minutes remaining in regulation. Hillman pulled Effinger in favor of an extra attacker and a 6-on-4 situation, but the Mavs failed to score.

A standing-room-only crowd watched the game from the Hooter’s location just east of the Events Center.

“There were more people at Hooter’s than there were RiverKings fans watching the game in Mississippi,” Mavs fan Josh Enke said of the crowd, officially announced at 1,963. “They kept scanning the crowd and showing the same fans because there were so few fans there.

“They could have taken all the fans and sat them down by the glass. There was no one there. It was embarrassing.”

If the Mavericks win tonight and advance, they will face the Rapid City Rush in Round 2 of the playoffs starting at Independence Events Center on Saturday and Sunday.

Tickets to the Mavericks’ first two home games of the second round are on sale now. Round 2 tickets start at $14, and fans can only purchase with a credit card by visiting the Independence Events Center Box Office, calling (866) 443-8849, or visiting  Should the Mavericks not advance to Round 2 their credit cards will be refunded minus applicable service charges.

At DeSoto Civic Center, Southaven, Miss.

MISSOURI MAVERICKS         0    1    0    —    1
MISSISSIPPI RIVERKINGS    1    1    0    —    2

First Period—1, Mississippi, Kevin Truelson (power play) (Derek Landmesser, Braden Desmet), 6:57. Penalties—Jeff Christian, Mavericks (roughing), 6:57.

Second Period—2, Mississippi, Bobby Chaumont (Elias Godoy), 6:47; 3, Mavericks, Jeff MacDermid (Jeff Christian), 7:23. Penalties—Brett Hammond, Mavericks (tripping), 12:41; Blake Forsyth, Mavericks (hooking), 15:10.

Third Period—No scoring. Penalties—Braden Walls, Mavericks (cross checking), 4:38; Darrell Stoddard, Mississippi (cross checking), 16:03.

Shots on goal—Mavericks 4-8-11–23; Mississippi 13-12-7–32.
Power-play opportunities—Mavericks 0 for 1; Mississippi 1 for 4.
Goalies—Mavericks, Charlie Effinger 1-1-0 playoffs (32 shots, 30 saves); Mississippi, Kyle McNulty 1-1-0 playoffs (23 shots, 22 saves).
Stars of the game—First: Bobby Chaumont, Mississippi; Second: Kevin Truelson, Mississippi; Third: Jeff MacDermid, Mavericks.
Time—2:24; Attendance—1,963.