It’s getting close to noon on a hot and humid Independence Monday morning, and coach John-Scott Dickson’s Kansas City Mavericks are still on the ice.
There is almost a game-like intensity at the extended practice session as the veteran coach pays special attention to every detail on the ice.
That’s because he has some tough decisions to make as his ECHL team heads into its 7:05 p.m. Friday season opener against the Allen Americans.
The opener marks the Mavericks’ 10th anniversary season at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena.
When the final whistle is blown, ending practice, and Dickson and assistant coach Kyle Hood head to their office inside the team’s locker room, most players remain on the ice.
They know that the hammer is going to fall this week, as one of the most competitive camps in recent history is winding down.
Dickson and Hood got a taste of what to expect from the Mavericks with two aggressive scrimmages in Allen, Texas, as the Americans claimed back-to-back 4-3 victories Friday and Saturday.
“We had an early 3-0 lead in the first scrimmage and we started mixing and matching some guys and they scored four goals and won – which means nothing,” Dickson said.
“In Saturday’s scrimmage they score on a power-play goal with like nine seconds left in the game and we thought they had six skaters on the ice – which, once again, means nothing.
“We saw a lot of good things from some of our guys, and some guys who didn’t play like we had hoped they would, which will make our decisions on the final roster a bit easier. We’re going to be a tougher, grittier team. I think we’re going to have more speed than we had last season and we have Mason back in the net, which is big.”
He was referring to goaltender Mason McDonald, who was reassigned Saturday from the Stockton Heat, the Mavericks’ American Hockey League affiliate.
McDonald played one period in Saturday’s scrimmage against Allen.
“We’re happy to have him back,” Dickson said. “We’re hoping he just gets better and better and makes his way back to Stockton and, hopefully, the NHL. But it’s nice to have someone in that position who know you can rely on and know what to expect game in and game out.”
McDonald, 22, spent the majority of last season with the Mavericks, playing in 27 games and finishing with a 3.16 goals against average, an .894 save percentage and a record of 11-14-0-1.
The 6-foot-4, 200-pounder set a season high of 39 saves against the Tulsa Oilers a year ago, and found success in his stint with Stockton later in the season with a 3.48 GAA and 3-1 record.
He was a second round pick (34th overall) by the Calgary Flames in the 2014 NHL Draft and is in his third full professional season. He has seen time in both the AHL and ECHL in his two previous campaigns.
In 56 career ECHL games, McDonald owns a 24-23-2-4 record with one shutout, a 2.93 GAA and .895 save percentage.
“It’s great to be a great organization, a classy organization with great coaches, a great facility and the best fans in the league,” McDonald said Monday morning. “This is the only place I would ever want to play in the ECHL. I think we saw a lot of good things (at the scrimmage) in Allen, and we saw some things we need to work on.
“I can’t wait to get back to work this week and get ready for Friday’s game. With it being the season opener and the home opener, you know our fans are going to come out to support us.”