For two periods, the Missouri Mavericks stood toe-to-toe with the Rapid City Rush, in a hockey game that resembled a heavyweight boxing match – plenty of knockdowns, but no knockouts.

For two periods, the Missouri Mavericks stood toe-to-toe with the Rapid City Rush, in a hockey game that resembled a heavyweight boxing match – plenty of knockdowns, but no knockouts.


The Rush found their knockout punch in the third period, scoring four goals, to claim a 5-1 victory in front of a crowd of 5,159 Saturday night at the Independence Events Center to take a 1-0 lead in Game 1 of the Northern Conference semifinals.


The two teams meet for Game 2 at 7:05 p.m. Sunday at the Events Center. Tickets in all price ranges are available for the game.


Mavericks goaltender Charlie Effinger made 38 saves on the night, but four different Rush players scored in the third period. Jon Pelle had a pair of goals for Rapid City, including an empty netter, and goaltender Danny Battochio stopped 34 of 35 shots for his first playoff win.  The game also was the first playoff game in franchise history for Rapid City. 


“Our first period might have been the best overall period we’ve played this season,” Mavericks coach Scott Hillman said. “We had so many great scoring opportunities, though. If we could have just stolen one, who knows?”


The teams skated to a scoreless first period despite a number of chances for each squad.  Mavericks forward Bill Vandermeer was stopped point blank by Battochio on the Mavericks’ first power play in the best scoring chance of the period.


“A 1-0 lead, seconds into the game, it could have made a difference,” Hillman said, “but that is a very good team. We were so focused and so ready the first period. We weren’t quite as sharp the second period and they just dominated the third period.


“Well make some adjustments and make sure that doesn’t happen Sunday.”


Pelle finally unlocked the scoreless tie just past the midway point of the game when he banged home a rebound at 11:11 of the second period.  Les Reaney (3 assists) and Cody Bostock (2 assists) each earned an assist on the play.


Rapid City outshot the Mavericks 17-11 in the second, however the game remained just 1-0 through the first two periods. 


Scott Wray and Brendan Cook scored for the Rush in the first 12:53 of the third period, and Brett Hammond finally scored the Mavericks’ first goal with the extra attacker at 15:04.  Hammond’s goal marked his second in two games and third goal overall in the playoffs. Jeff Christian assisted on the goal.


“It’s a seven-game series, so there is no need to panic,” Hammond said. “They scored with a lot of traffic in front of the net. We need to find a way to put the puck in the back of the net and give Charlie some support.”


The Rush quickly answered and made it a 4-1 game on Derek Leblanc’s goal at the 15:56 mark.  Finally, Pelle scored into the empty net with 1:17 remaining to make it a 5-1 score.


“My job is to give the boys a chance to win, and I try to win every period,” Effinger said. “We did well the first two periods. I’m not happy about what happened in the third period, but we have to get ready for Sunday and not let something like that happen again.


“If it were a three-game series, we might be in trouble. I’m sure Scott will take a look at the game, figure some things out and we’ll come back strong Sunday.”