The captain and the kid – and the return of Billy V – made for a special night at the Independence Events Center.

The captain and the kid – and the return of Billy V – made for a special night at the Independence Events Center.

Rookie Walker Wintoneak scored just the second hat trick in the history of the Missouri Mavericks and team captain Carlyle Lewis scored the game-winning goal as the Central Hockey League team fought back from a two-goal deficit to claim a hard-fought 5-4 victory Friday night.

With Gerry Festa standing tall in the net and forward Bill Vandermeer returning for his first game since shattering both heels in a tree pruning mishap this summer, the Mavs took the sold-out crowd of 5,800 on a roller-coaster ride of emotions.

“There’s a lot of fight and determination in the team in that locker room,” Mavs coach Scott Hillman said, with a touch of pride in his voice.

“If anyone would have come in this locker room and not talked about giving 100 percent, they would have been punched in the face. We faced some adversity tonight and found a way to beat it – what a win! What a great, great win!”

The game began with two quick Killer Bee goals as Nick Sucharski, who was added to the Rio Grande Valley roster just hours before the game, scored on a redirected shot from Jake Obermeyer.

Just over a minute later, the Bees capitalized on a two-man advantage, when a Darcy Campbell slap shot found the back of the net.

“Five on three is tough, and unacceptable,” Hillman said. “Those are the mistakes we have to quit making – it just puts too much pressure on the goaltender.”

The Mavericks responded late in the period as Wintoneak continued his impressive first month as a pro, burying a rebound from Ryan Jardine for his third goal of the season.

Jardine and rookie defenseman Mike Wakita assisted on the goal. The Mavericks outshot the Bees 14-7 in the period, but the Bees held the 2-1 advantage heading into the first intermisson.

The Mavericks were quick to knot the score up as the second period got underway. Mike Berry nailed home another rebound goal for the Mavericks as Mike Wakita recorded his second assist of the game.

Toby Lafrance was credited with an assist on the goal, his team leading eighth of the season. The Bees got right back in it just 38 seconds later as Campbell ripped home a wrist shot from the slot for his second goal of the game.

Wintoneak again knotted the score as he tipped in a shot by Berry, who was credited with an assist along with Olivier Filion.

 Wintoneak then wrote his name into the Mavericks record book as he scored his third goal of the game. Seconds after the puck went into the net, the hats flew out on the ice.

“This is one night I wish I’d have worn an old hat and not my favorite Mavericks hat,” Blue Springs resident Jeff Barge said. “There’s nothing better than seeing the hats out on the ice.”

The Bees were determined to ensure that Wintoneak did not steal the spotlight, as they tied the game up with just over a minute left in the period, when Ryan McLeod scored off a pass from Campbell on yet another Rio Grande Valley five-on-three advantage.

“We knew we had to come out and have a strong third period,” said Lewis, whose second goal of the season proved to be the game winner. “I heard the PA guy say it was my first goal. Come on, you can’t even catch a break at home.”

Everyone laughed, including the kid who made sure Lewis had the opportunity to knock home the game winner.

 “All I care about is the win,” Wintoneak said. “This is a great night for the Mavericks. We’d lost two in a row and we kept finding a way to stay in the game.

“Gerry was huge in the net and Carlyle gets the biggest goal of the night. I’m glad I could help, but I was just part of a great team effort.”

That was the same way Festa described the memorable win.

“Everyone on the team contributed,” Festa said. “We were all fired up to have Bill Vandermeer back on the ice and all the lines played great.

“They scored on a couple of five-on-three situations, but other than that, we did a great all around job. I’m proud to be a part of this team, I really am.”

The Mavericks improved to 8-6-2 with the victory and face the 7-8-2 Killer Bees at 7:05 p.m. Saturday night at the Events Center.

Following the game, the Mavericks auctioned off their one-night-only military appreciation night jerseys.

Mavericks trade Lardner: Before the game, the Mavericks traded forward Tab Lardner to the Fort Wayne Komets in exchange for considerations. That allowed the team to sign Vandermeer.

“The whole community has been behind Bill’s recovery,” Hillman said.  “As a coach, watching him go through what he has gone through, I am proud of his efforts and optimistic that he can return to pre-injury form.

“We are hoping this is a timely addition as we are searching for some additional offense, and we hope Bill is one of those answers.”