Toby Lafrance, the second-year Missouri Mavericks forward, poked his head outside the locker room.

Toby Lafrance, the second-year Missouri Mavericks forward, poked his head outside the locker room.

He went over to meet a friend and said, “It’s time to go into the real world, and I don’t want to go. Instead of playing hockey, by this time next week I will be working in a hardware store.”

He returned to a somber locker room where his teammates were huddled in small groups that would likely spend much of the night talking about a memorable Central Hockey League season that came to an end Thursday night when Colorado edged the Mavericks 2-1 at the Independence Events Center.

“This just sucks, because I don’t want to say goodbye to the those guys in that locker room,” goaltender Robby Nolan said after heading a masterful performance by a defense that allowed the Eagles just 24 shots on goal.

“We didn’t want it to end. We don’t want to say goodbye to each other, to Coach, to our fans.”

Like Lafrance, Nolan simply returned to the locker room, where he sat between team captains Ray DiLauro and Carlyle Lewis.

“The boys played with urgency tonight, because – as you can tell by looking in the locker room – none of them wanted this to end,” Mavericks coach Scott Hillman said after the Eagles claimed their third win of the best-of-five series, topping Missouri 3-1.

“Last year, when we played Rapid City in the second round, we knew we didn’t have a chance – they were too good. This year, we knew we had a chance. We got off to a bad start in Colorado (losing two games by a combined score of 10-3). Then we come home and got a great (4-3) win Tuesday night, and everyone on this team thought we’d come out and win tonight.”

Hilman said the Mavericks even turned in one of their best performances of the season.

“We outshot a team that never gets outshot, maybe played the best defensive game of the year, and we just can’t find a way to score,” he said. “We get the one goal on the five-on-three power play with about 50 seconds left in the second period and oh, my goodness – how many chances did we have in the final period?

“But give them credit. They won and they are a great team. They have a player (league MVP Riley Nelson) who played his 100th playoff game tonight – and they have all been with the Eagles.

Hillman said eventually the Mavericks will be saying the same things about themselves.

“What have we played – 15 playoff games as a franchise?” Hillman said. “Give us time – we’re going to be just fine. This one hurts tonight, but I promise you we will come back next year and give our fans another season they can be very proud of.”

The Eagles now move on to the Turner Conference finals.

The Mavericks will hold a season celebration from 5 to 7 p.m. tonight at the Events Center for all fans.