A couple of veterans who own championship rings and an up-and-coming rookie made sure that Charlie Effinger’s effort in the net was not wasted Wednesday night at the Independence Events Center as the Missouri Mavericks edged Evansville 3-2 to take a 1-0 lead in their best-of-seven CHL playoff series.

A couple of veterans who own championship rings and an up-and-coming rookie made sure that Charlie Effinger’s effort in the net was not wasted Wednesday night at the Independence Events Center as the Missouri Mavericks edged Evansville 3-2 to take a 1-0 lead in their best-of-seven CHL playoff series.

Ed McGrane and Dave Pszenyczny, who have won CHL titles with Colorado and Mississippi, respectively, scored the first two goals of the game and rookie defenseman Brandon Smith scored the game-winner as Effinger stood tall in the net, stopping 35 of 37 shots, including all 16 in the third period.

“It’s amazing how the veteran guys like Graner and Pszey raise their level of play in a big game like this,” Mavericks coach Scott Hillman said, “and our season turned around when Brandon Smith got here.

“He didn’t have many offensive stats, but he’s scored some big goals, including his goal tonight. And Charlie was Charlie. We know what to expect from him every time he plays. He’s been amazing.”

Effinger is 4-0 this season – including Wednesday night’s win – with a 1.95 goals-against average against one of the highest-scoring clubs in the league.

“I throw the regular season out and just concentrate on this new season,” Effinger said when asked about his dominance over the IceMen. “They are so dangerous and can score so quickly.

“If you let your guard down, they have a goal. I give all the credit tonight to the boys. They got enough points to win the game and our defense was amazing. We killed three power plays in the third period. The PK (penalty kill) guys were so good. We had that 3-2 lead in the third period and we had to keep them from scoring, and we found a way to do it.”

The Mavs leave at noon today to travel to Evansville where they will play the IceMen Friday and Saturday. The series returns to Independence for a 7:05 p.m. game Monday night.

“We had to win the first game,” Hillman said. “Now, if we can steal a game on their ice it will be so big.”    

McGrane scored the first goal of the 2012 CHL postseason eight and a half minutes into regulation. Ryan Jardine and Tristin Llewellyn assisted on the goal.

“It was big to get the first goal, to get some momentum, even though they came back and tied the game,” said McGrane, who threw his hands skyward after he scored, only to watch his stick sail through the air.

“The emotions got the best of me on that goal. This is a big series and this is a big win for the team.”

Late in the first period, Pszenyczny took a pass from McGrane in the slot and buried it to give the Mavs a 2-1 lead. McGrane and Jardine collected their second points of the game with assists on the goal.

“Getting the lead back was big,” Pszenyczny said. “We’re considered the underdog in this series, so it’s big to get the 1-0 lead heading into Evansville. Now, we need to find a way to get a win at their place.”

 Smith gave the Mavs a 3-1 lead on a wrist shot from the left-side hashmark 5:51 into the second period, beating Evansville goaltender Pier-Olivier Pelletier high on the blocker side. Sebastien Thinel assisted the eventual game-winning goal as CHL scoring leader Todd Robinson scored on a breakaway goal with just 19 seconds left in the period.

The IceMen failed to score on three third-period power play opportunities as Effinger refused to allow Evansville to tie the score.

“I’ve been asked if this was a must-win,” Effinger said, “and to me, the only must-win situation is when you have to win or you’re eliminated from a series. This wasn’t a must-win, but it was a big win, an important win.

“With the next two games at their place, we needed to win tonight. We finished the regular season with four wins in a row, and with the win tonight, we’ve carried that momentum into the playoffs.”

PLAYOFF TICKETS ON SALE: Single-game tickets for all home playoff games are on sale. All playoff tickets will be refunded in the event the Mavericks do not play a game in which tickets are purchased.

A crowd of 4,311 watched Wednesday night’s game, and chanted “Charlie! Charlie!” through most of the contest.

“I want the fans to know I hear them,” Effinger said, grinning. “They’re our sixth man. I love our fans. I love playing in this building and feeling their excitement. I get a lot of energy from our fans.”

ALL DRESSED UP: The Mavericks dressed up the Events Center for the first game of the playoffs with life-size action photos of the players adorning the doors and walls, horseshoe decals leading up to the center from the parking lot and orange foil wrapping covering each seat.

“We wanted to do something special for our fans,” team president and general manager Brent Thiessen said.