The Missouri Mavericks captured their first ever playoff series, with a 3-1 victory over the Mississippi Riverkings on Thursday night. In the first two games of this series, the goaltenders stole the show. Mavericks' goalie Charlie Effinger led his team to a 4-2 victory in Game One, and Kyle McNulty of the Riverkings responded with a 2-1 win in Game Two. Needless to say, the net-minder who stepped up in Game Three would likely lead his team on to a series victory, and that is precisely what occurred.
The first period has been an integral factor in this series, and that trend continued in Game Three. The Mavericks came out of the locker room with a lot of intensity and attempted to pounce on the Riverkings early, and their strategy paid off. Brett Hammond gave the Mavericks the first lead in the game when he ripped a slapshot that McNulty was able to knock down but not control, and Hammond slipped the rebound past McNulty at the 1:14 mark. Mississippi then had a golden opportunity, as they rushed in on a 2-on-1 while on the penalty kill, but the attempted shot rung off the post, which proved to be a catastrophic turn of events. The Mavericks quickly pounced on the puck, and turned it into a 4-on-1 situation the other way. Bill Vandermeer would end up blasting a slapshot passed McNulty for his second goal of the series to give Missouri as 2-0 lead, which would be the score after the first period of play.
The Mavericks' start to the second period would be just as good as the first. Only three minutes into the second session, Mavericks' forward, and member of the CHL All-Rookie team, Nick Sirota would stuff home a rebound off a shot from teammate Braden Walls to extend the Mavericks' lead to three. Mississippi did their best to try and get back in the game, but Effinger would not relinquish the lead that his teammates had worked so hard to attain. Riverkings forward Stephen Margeson would give his team a glimmer of hope, when he beat Effinger at the 12:50 mark in the second period, but that would be all the offense that the Riverkings would muster on this night.
Effinger went into lock-down mode in the third period. Mississippi peppered him with shots of all different varieties, but the Mavericks' goalie would stop all 17 shots on goal in the third, contributing to his 36 save performance. The Mavericks would weather the storm, hold on for a 3-1 victory, and will now face Rapid City in the Conference Semifinals. The series will start on Saturday night at 7:05pm on the home ice of the Mavericks in Independence, Missouri.
The Mavericks have quite a tall task ahead of them. Rapid City has dominated the Mavericks this season, beating Missouri in all five meetings and outscoring them 24-9. However, the Mavericks have played well against some of the best teams in the CHL over the past few months, beating the likes of Allen, Colorado, and Odessa. The Mavericks will have to make some adjustments to what they did against Rapid City in the regular season, and Coach Hillman will need to make sure that his team is prepared for sixty minutes of war every night.
Originally posted on ProHockeyNews.com