For months, the Missouri Mavericks have seemingly played “the biggest game of the season.”

For months, the Missouri Mavericks have seemingly played “the biggest game of the season.”

That’s what happens when a team has to fight for its playoff life.

At 6:30 p.m. (CDT) tonight in Fort Wayne, the Mavericks will play the Komets for what really is the biggest game of the season as Missouri holds a 3-2 edge in their best-of-seven Turner Conference championship series, which could end tonight with a victory in Game 6.

“Yeah, I think you could call Tuesday’s game the biggest of the season,” said goaltender Charlie Effinger, who is 7-2 in postseason action. “Because we really had to win a lot of games down the stretch (of the regular season), it seemed like every game we played was the biggest game of the season.

The Mavs then reeled off six straight playoff wins, sweeping Evansville 4-0 in the first round before taking the first two on the road against Fort Wayne. But the Komets evened it at 2-2 with two wins at the Events Center before the Mavericks won 5-2 Saturday. That sets up probably the biggest game so far for the three-year-old franchise.

“Tuesday night is big, huge – really big, really huge. We’re a win away from going to the championship series, and that has been this team’s only goal all season. We really need a win Tuesday. We don’t want it to go to Game 7 on their ice.”

If there is a Game 7, it will be at 6:30 p.m. CDT Thursday in Fort Wayne.

“Fort Wayne is such a good club,” Mavericks coach Scott Hillman said. “They present some unique challenges, and we were finally able to answer those challenges Saturday night. Charlie was Charlie – outstanding in the net – and we got production from every line.”

John-Scott Dickson scored 39 seconds into the game and the Mavericks led 3-1 after one period.

“We had a strong (third) period in the (5-4) double-overtime loss Thursday night and came out (Saturday night) and had a strong first period to start that game,” Dickson said. “That’s a key to our success. We need to come out strong, put some points on the scoreboard and play strong defense. We did that (Saturday) and look at the end result.”

Veteran forward Ed McGrane, who has scored eight goals and has 12 points in postseason action, said the Mavericks might have one slight advantage in Game 6.

“Their (semifinal) series went longer than ours,” said McGrane, referring to the Mavericks’ four-game sweep of Evansville in the semifinals). “Early on, that 11-game break wasn’t beneficial because we had to knock some rust off.

“But now, it could be very beneficial. We need to take advantage of that rest and come out strong in the opening period Tuesday night.”

Sebastien Thinel has never won a CHL championship, despite holding many personal records and honors.

 “I live for games like we’re going to play Tuesday night,” said Thinel, who had a goal in the win Saturday and is tied for the CHL postseason scoring lead with 13 points, one point ahead of McGrane and two ahead of teammate Andrew Courtney. “We’re a win away from going to the championship series. We have to create more chances offensively and be productive in the first period.”

Thinel said the team wants to use Saturday as an example for how to play tonight.

“I think we played our best game of the series (Saturday),” he added. “We came out with a lot of energy and our passing was crisp and the tempo was upbeat. We are going to Fort Wayne with one goal – and only one goal – to win one game and go to the championship series.

“We hope it happens Tuesday night. It’s gone from a best-of-seven series to a best-of-three series, and we have one win. It was tough coming back from that (5-4) double-overtime loss, but we came back and played our best game. Once again we need to play our best game Tuesday. We have to make it happen.”



NOTE: Complete Game 5 game story can be found online at www.examiner.net.