Rookie Nick Schneider stands near the ice inside the vacant Silverstein Eye Centers Arena following another solid practice session early Thursday morning.
He takes a glance at the stands, trying to imagine what the SEC Arena will be like when it is filled with fans, as the rookie goaltender will be in the net at 7:05 tonight when the Kansas City Mavericks play host to their longtime rival Allen Americans in the both the home and season opener for the ECHL squad.
“I’ve heard from the guys who have played here before that it’s going to be crazy Friday night,” said Schneider, 21, who will play in his first ECHL game with the Mavericks.
“I’ve heard a lot about the rivalry between the Mavericks and the Americans, and we played a couple of exhibition games down in Allen, and they could get a little chippy, so I’m expecting a lot of excitement Friday night.”
The 6-foot-2, 170-pound goalie played for the Western Hockey League’s Calgary Hitmen last season, posting a 3.70 goals against average and .885 save percentage.
Following his season with the Hitmen, Schneider joined the Stockton Heat for a game – his 10th in the AHL.
“We like what we’ve seen from Nick in camp,” Mavericks coach John-Scott Dickson said. “He’s worked hard and deserves to be in the net for the opener.”
Mason McDonald, who played for the Mavericks last season, was expected to be in the net, but he’s dealing with a lower body injury that has kept him off the ice all week.
“Mason played one period down in Allen, and wasn’t 100 percent, so we’re not going to rush him back,” Dickson said. “We feel very comfortable with Nick in the net.”
When asked if he knew anything about Independence before signing with the Mavericks, Schneider grinned.
“No, not about Independence,” he said, “I found a lot of stuff about Kansas City, because that is where I thought we were playing. But I found out Independence is so close, it’s like being in Kansas City and I really like it out here.
“I haven’t had a lot of time to look around, but it was interesting to drive by the Kansas City Royals and Chiefs stadiums, and I’m going to have to try some of the Kansas City barbeque. Everyone talks about how classy this organization is, from the front office and our coaches to our fans, and I can’t wait for the season to start.”
NOTES: The ECHL released the Mavericks final 23-man roster that includes three goalkeepers (McDonald is on injured reserve), six defenders and 14 forwards with Corey Durocher on injured reserve and C.J. Eick and Radoslav Illo on reserve.
“I like the way we built the team,” Dickson said. “We’ve talked about this a lot this preseason, but we look good on paper. Now, we have to go out Friday night and get it done on the ice.”