Jeff Christian had a goal and two assists to lead the first-year team to the biggest win of the season, a 4-3 shootout thriller over the Mississippi RiverKings at the Independence Events Center, but the game’s unsung hero was Toby Lafrance, a newcomer to the Mavericks who scored two goals.

Ryan, Daddy’s bringing home something special – the biggest win of the season.

Jeff Christian – who has somehow managed to be a devoted father to his 8-year-old daughter, Ryan, who just returned home to Blue Springs following surgery and a lengthy stay at Children’s Mercy Hospital; a rock to his wife, Dorie; and an inspiration to his Missouri Maverick teammates – had a goal and two assists to lead the first-year team to the biggest win of the season, a 4-3 shootout thriller over the Mississippi RiverKings at the Independence Events Center.

The top five teams in each Central Hockey League division advance to postseason play. The 25-23-4 Mavericks, with two points Tuesday, edged past Tulsa for fifth place in the Northern Conference and now trail fourth-place Mississippi (25-21-7) by just three points.

“From this point on, every game is going to be the biggest game of the season,” Christian said. “But this win was pretty big, especially when you consider all we had to overcome.”

Officials failed to allow one Christian goal that replays apparently showed hit the back of the net.

There were also some questionable calls that left coach Scott Hillman livid – but diplomatic

“All I want to say is that the players in that locker room – with great leadership from Jeff Christian and great team spirit – found a way to win this game,” Hillman said.

As Hillman’s wife, Dalyn, looked on from a corner of his office, she added, “When he came out to get me and our boys (outside the locker room), his face was so beet red. I’ve never seen it that red.”

Hillman just grinned and said, “I’ve never had a headache like the one I have right now. As a player or a coach, it was just amazing how our team came back to win this game – amazing.”

You want heroes?

• Christian, voted the No. 1 star of the game, returned to the ice after bringing his daughter home from the hospital. He assisted on the team’s first goal, scored a goal to tie it 2-2 and then assisted on Karl Sellan’s game-tying goal at 18:07 of the third period to send it into overtime.

• Sellan, who is playing with a nose that looks like it went through a meat grinder, scored the game-tying goal then chest bumped the ice and pumped his first in the air to push the crowd of 4,141 into a frenzy.

• Goaltender Charlie Effinger, who blocked Elias Godoy’s final shootout attempt to secure the win and allow his team the chance for a collective sigh of relief.

“I try to read the body language of the player,” Effinger said. “It worked tonight.”

But the game’s unsung hero was Toby Lafrance, a newcomer to the Mavericks who scored two goals – the first in final minute of the second period and the game-winner in the shootout.

“Toby, Toby, Toby – what can I say about Toby,” Hillman said, finally able to break into a smile. “What a game for that young man. When he hit his (shootout) shot, it was like, ‘Yes! We’re going to get it done tonight.’ ”

When asked about his role in the game, Lafrance pointed to Chrisman and said, “Our coach inspired us between the second and third periods and Jeff has inspired us all season. What he did tonight was very special.”

When asked about his shootout strategy, Lafrance simply said, “I don’t try to go out there and think about anything. We all knew how big this game was.

“We win, we’re in fifth place and back in the playoff hunt. We lose, and – well, I don’t even want to think about that. I have never been in a game with so many highs and so many lows.

“When I scored, I thought, ‘We have won,’ because I knew Charlie would not allow them to score another goal in the shootout.”

He was right.

After a scoreless first period, Godoy gave the Riverkings a 1-0 lead at the 4:44 mark of the second period. At the 15:51 mark, Mississippi took a 2-0 lead on Glenn Detulleo’s eighth goal of the season.

Missouri bounced back when Lafrance netted his first of the evening on the power play to cut the lead to 2-1 at the 19:24 mark of the second period.

Christian scored his team-leading 27th goal of the season eight minutes into the final period on a nice individual effort. He took the puck at the Mavericks’ blue line, skated into the Mississippi zone and danced around a pair of defenders before slipping a wrist shot past RiverKings goaltender Mark Sibbald.

Mississippi quickly rebounded and took a 3-2 lead only 1:16 after Christian’s goal. Ryan Held scored the power-play goal when he redirected a pass from Kevin Truelson into the back of the net.

The RiverKings held on to the lead until Sellan worked his magic while the Mavericks had a 5-on-3 advantage.

The Mavericks then scored three straight goals in the shootout as Jeff MacDermid, Brett Hammond and LaFrance all scored.

Hammond’s goal was spectacular as he shot the puck past Sibbald as he flew parallel to the ice.

“That’s Brett’s practice goal,” Hillman said. “First time I’ve seen him use it in a game. Nice, very nice.”

TUESDAY’S SUMMARY

MISSOURI MAVERICKS 4, MISSISSIPPI RIVERKINGS 3 (SHOOTOUT)
Mavericks win shootout 3-2
At Independence Events Center

MISSISSIPPI RIVERKINGS    0    2    1    0    0    —    3
MISSOURI MAVERICKS         0    1    2    0    1    —    4

First Period—No scoring. Penalties—Louis Dumont, Mississippi (hooking), 9:46; Derek Pallardy, Mavericks (high sticking), 15:45.

Second Period—1, Mississippi, Elias Godoy (Bobby Chaumont), 4:46; 2, Mississippi, Glenn Detulleo (Ken Davis, Tyler Doherty), 15:51; 3, Mavericks, Toby Lafrance (power play) (Jeff Christian), 19:24. Penalties—Mike Harr, Mavericks (tripping), 9:33; Karl Sellan, Mavericks (hooking), 17:15; Elias Godoy, Mississippi (goalie interference), 17:23; Louis Dumont, Mississippi (tripping), 18:15; Stephen Margeson, Mississippi (roughing), 19:24.

Third Period—4, Mavericks, Jeff Christian (unassisted), 4:38; 5, Mississippi, Ryan Held (power play) (Kevin Truelson, Louis Dumont), 9:16; 6, Mavericks, Karl Sellan (power play) (Mike Burgoyne, Jeff Christian), 18:07. Penalties—Braden Walls, Mavericks (slashing), 2:34; Darrell Stoddard, Mississippi (tripping), 6:27; Andrew Lackner, Mississippi (roughing), 7:27; Jordan Foreman, Mavericks (unsportsmanlike conduct), 7:27; Jordan Foreman, Mavericks (roughing), 7:27; Tyler Doherty, Mississippi (holding), 9:40; Karl Sellan, Mavericks (cross checking), 9:40; Kevin Truelson, Mississippi (interference), 11:54; Jeff Christian, Mavericks (tripping), 12:00; Nathan Schwartzbauer, Mississippi (roughing), 17:00; David Simoes, Mississippi (roughing), 17:27.

Overtime—No scoring. Penalties—Jordan Foreman, Mavericks (roughing OT minor), 2:55; Mark Sibbald, Mississippi (high sticking OT minor), 4:15.

Shootout—Mississippi 2 for 5 (Matt Summers, Louis Dumont); Mavericks 3 for 4 (Jeff MacDermid, Brett Hammond, Toby Lafrance).

Shots on goal—Mississippi 7-17-6-2-0–32; Mavericks 3-7-14-5-1–30.
Power-play opportunities—Mississippi 1 for 7; Mavericks 2 for 9.
Goalies—Mississippi, Mark Sibbald 5-4-1 (29 shots, 26 saves); Mavericks, Charlie Effinger 4-1-0 (32 shots, 29 saves).
Stars of the game—First: Jeff Christian, Mavericks; Second: Karl Sellan, Mavewricks; Third: Ryan Held, Mississippi.
Time—2:54; Attendance—4,141.