The Stretch Run: the time of year where every game is crucial. Every game could make or break your playoff hopes. While the Mavericks are not in the particular position that they would have hoped to be in, at the end of the day, they are right in the thick of things. They currently sit in 6th place in the Northern Conference, which if the season ended today, they would just miss the postseason. However, they trail the 5th place team, the Tulsa Oilers, by a single point. A win against the visiting Mississippi RiverKings, who currently lead the Mavs by a mere 4 points (the Mavs won the previous meeting 6-1) would not only leapfrog them over Tulsa into the final playoff spot, but it would bring them within two points of the RiverKings for 4th place.
It may have been jitters, knowing the importance of this game, or it may have been a case of two teams knowing each other very well (this is the 10th meeting between the Mavs and RiverKings). Either way, the first twenty minutes of play were, for lack of a better word, uneventful. While the play was physical between these two rivals, it seemed as though neither team wanted to make the first mistake. The Mavs got a few decent chances within the first three minutes of play, but that was about it. The two teams only combined for ten shots on goal, with Mississippi having the advantage 7-3. Needless to say, neither team was able to find the back of the net, as the game remained scoreless after the first period of play.
The RiverKings would break the scoreless tie early in the 2nd period. The Mavs defense was unable to clear their defensive zone, leading to RiverKings forward Bobby Chaumont finding teammate Elias Godoy wide open with a nice tape-to-tape pass. Godoy unleashed a slapshot that beat Mavs goalie Charlie Effinger to put Mississippi up 1-0. The RiverKings would extend their lead when former Wichita Thunder, now RiverKing forward Glenn Detulleo pushed a shot past Effinger at the 15:51 mark of the 2nd period. The Mavs would get a powerplay with less than two minutes to play in the session, which eventually led to Mavs forward Toby Lafrance one-timing a great pass from Jeff Christian that just slipped by the pads of Mississippi goalie Mark Sibbald with only 36 seconds left in the 2nd period. Mississippi would lead 2-1 going into the final period of play.
The Mavs appeared to tie the game up early in the 3rd, when Jeff Christian ripped a slapshot by Sibbald. The Mavs claimed that the puck struck the netting towards the top of the goal causing it to shoot back into play, however the officials ruled that the shot hit the crossbar, and never entered the goal. "We all thought it went in, but it's like I told the ref, you can't call it if you didn't see it," Christian said after the game. Christian would get another chance on a couple minutes after the disallowed goal, and there was no mistake about this one. Christian took a pass from Mavs defender Jared Lavender in his own defensive end. Christian then carried the puck the length of the ice, dancing in and out of the RiverKing defense, then beat Sibbald with a quick wrister to tie the game at two. The RiverKings would not take long to respond, only 1:16 to be exact, but they also got a little help on the go-ahead goal. An obvious tripping penalty was committed by Mississippi, but not one official seemed to take notice. On the same possession, RiverKings forward Ryan Held deflected a shot from the point that beat Effinger to put Mississippi up with a little more than ten minutes remaining in the third period. After taking the lead, Mississippi appeared to be more than willing to give the game back to the Mavs, turning the puck over several times, and even took a few penalties. However, Sibbald refused to go quietly. He continued to turn away an offensive that was mounted by the Mavs. The penalties finally caught up to the RiverKings, however. A two-man advantage for the Mavs would set up Karl Sellan's game-tying goal with less than two minutes left in regulation.
In overtime, both teams could not take advantage of powerplays. The game would go into a shootout, which has been a strength of the Mavs so far this season. Coming into the game, the Mavs had amassed eight victories via shootout, which is the most in the CHL. History would repeat itself on this night, as Charlie Effinger stopped 3 out of 5 RiverKing attempts, while Jeff MacDermid, Brett Hammond, and Toby Lafrance all netted goals to give the Mavericks the much needed victory.
With the win, the Mavericks are now in sole possession of the 5th and final playoff spot in the Northern Conference, but by the slimmest of margins. Their upcoming opponent, the Tulsa Oilers, trail the Mavs by a single point in the standings.
- Jeff Christian was awarded the 1st Star of the Game, Karl Sellan the 2nd Star, and RiverKings forward Ryan Held the 3rd Star
- Injury update: Bill Vandermeer's sprained ankle has healed, but he will need to strengthen the ankle before returning to the active roster
- Jeff Christian now has 66 points (27 goals, 39 assists) which is good for tied for 4th in the league
- If they had played in enough games to qualify, Mavs goalies Charlie Effinger and Gerry Festa would rank 1st and 2nd in the league respectively in Goals Against Average
- The Mavs scored two powerplay goals against Mississippi after only scoring one powerplay goal in their previous 25 opportunities