The Missouri Mavericks became the first team in CHL history to win their opening round series on the road.
The Missouri Mavericks etched their name into the Central Hockey League record book Thursday night as goaltender Charlie Effinger stopped 36 of 37 shots – including all 17 RiverKing shots in the third period – as the first-year team edged Mississippi 3-1 in a decisive Game 3 of the Northern Conference first-round playoff series.
The Mavericks became the first team in CHL history to win their opening round series on the road.
The higher seed was 13-0 before the Mavericks broke that streak in a game Mavericks coach Scott Hillman called, “The greatest, all-around team effort in the history of this organization.”
Brett Hammond gave the Mavericks a 1-0 lead 1:14 into the first period and Bill Vandermeer scored the eventual game winner on a breakaway attempt that zipped past RiverKings goaltender Kyle McNulty later in the period.
Missouri will face the Rapid City Rush in the Northern Conference semifinals in a best-of-seven series Saturday and Sunday, at the Independence Events Center. Both games are scheduled to start at 7:05 p.m.
“Can you imagine what our place is going to be like Saturday and Sunday?” asked an excited president and general manager, Brent Thiessen, who was with the team in Mississippi.
“Tonight, we witnessed something special. From Joe Greene (assistant general manager) and our staff, who did such a great job back at the Independence Events Center watch party (see related story), to our equipment manager Andrew Dvorak, and from Scott Hillman and our players, to having Dorie and Ryan Christian (the wife and daughter of all-star forward Jeff Christian) with us tonight – it was just a total team effort.
“And what about Charlie Effinger tonight? Was he something special? And Brett scoring that quick goal. You know, in this series, the team that scores first wins – so that was huge.”
Mississippi had a 6-on-4 advantage for the final 56 seconds of the game as the RiverKings had a power play and pulled McNulty from the net. Effinger again rose to the occasion, stopping all five RiverKing shots in that span.
“Charlie was just amazing tonight,” Hillman said, “all the boys were amazing. What a great night. It’s going to be a long, but fun, bus ride home.”
When asked about his performance, Effinger asked, “Do I sound excited, because right now, I’m pretty excited. The guys did great, we beat a very good Mississippi team and this win means we get to go back to ‘Indy Mo’ and play in front of the best fans in the league. I can’t wait.”
Hammond gave the Mavericks a 1-0 lead on the second shift of the game as Blake Forsyth skated into the RiverKings zone along the left wing and blasted a slap shot that was blocked by McNulty. Hammond quickly regained the rebound and wristed the puck into the open net from a sharp angle.
“We worked so hard tonight – so-o-o-o-o hard,” Hammond said. “Coach had us prepared and we were on a mission. We knew it would take a total team commitment to win this game, and the boys gave that commitment.”
The Mavericks killed a penalty midway through the opening period when Hammond was sent to the box for high sticking. Missouri killed the ensuing power play then earned a power play late in the period. During the Mavericks’ man advantage, Mississippi stole the puck and had a two-on-one odd-man rush on Effinger.
The RiverKings hit the pipe on their shot and Missouri came back on a four-on-one the other way. Vandermeer carried the puck into the zone and beat McNulty with a slap shot to give the Mavericks a 2-0 lead heading into the first intermission.
“I was so jealous watching the guys make the playoffs,” said Vandermeer, who Monday night scored the first playoff goal in team history. “We play well with our backs up against the wall. We knew we had to get this win tonight, and we got it.”
Just three minutes into the second period, the Mavericks extended their lead to 3-0 when Nick Sirota followed a shot by Braden Walls and backhanded the puck over the leg of McNulty.
Mississippi’s Stephen Margeson scored his first goal of the postseason to cut the Mavs’ lead to 3-1 at the 12:50 mark of the second. The Mavericks took the two-goal lead into the final period and outshot the RiverKings 25-20 through the first 40 minutes.