Long after most of his Kansas City Mavericks teammates had left the community ice and headed for the locker room at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena Thursday morning, Greg Betzold and his longtime friend Loren Hulett were refining and fine-tuning their game.
Betzold would stand in front of an empty net while Hulett would fire shot after shot that the Mavericks forward would redirect into the back of the net.
“You have to keep working because there is always someone out there working hard – a little kid in Russia, or maybe a member of the Allen Americans,” Betzold said, chuckling, as the Mavericks play host to their longtime rivals in a preseason exhibition game at 7 tonight at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena.
The Mavericks have had two just two practices, and their annual Wednesday orange and black scrimmage, heading into tonight’s exhibition but Betzold said he and his teammates are ready.
“The scrimmage was good,” Beltzold said, “because we’d been on the ice practicing a couple of times, but it really felt good to get back on the ice and compete.
“And Friday, competing against a big rival like Allen, will better than the scrimmage. It’s just an exhibition game, but it’s against another team and not your teammates, so it will be a lot more competitive.”
Betzold was a big reason last year that the Mavericks ended a two-year streak in which they missed postseason action. He scored 56 points in 70 games, scoring 21 goals and adding 35 assists.
The fourth-year veteran was selected as the Inglasco ECHL Player of the Week for the week of March 4-10. Betzold scored five goals, added four assists and had a plus-7 rating in three games that week.
“Betz had a great year,” Mavericks coach John-Scott Dickson said.
“I’m so happy for him. He really deserves everything that came his way last season. It didn’t matter where we played him, he created his own chances and that’s what the really good players do. He’s moving his feet well and doing all the little things that add to big points for the team.”
Little things the fans never witness, like spending an extra 45 minutes on the ice to fine-tune his game heading into an exhibition contest.
“The playoff atmosphere here was great last year, and it was great to get back in the postseason,” Betzold said. “But I kept thinking about losing Game 7 to Tulsa, and that’s one reason I want to work so hard to get ready for this season.
“I want to try stuff in practice, work on new things, to make myself a better player. Who knows, it might help us win a Game 7 this year.”
PLAYER MOVES: The Mavericks lost a goalie and gained two rookies Wednesday in moves with their American Hockey League affiliate, the Stockton Heat.
Stockton recalled the Mavericks’ top goaltender, Nick Schneider, because of an injury to Heat goalie Tyler Parsons, a former Maverick. The Heat also sent defenseman Zach Osburn and forward Jeremy McKenna to the Mavericks.
“Two young kids who can play the game,” Dickson said. “McKenna scored a lot of goals in juniors and we hope he can do that for us, and we’ve heard a lot of good things about Osburn. We’re excited to have them.”
Dickson said earlier in the week that Schneider would never spend an entire season in Independence because of his talent.
“I told you we were going to enjoy him while he was here,” Dickson said, chuckling late Thursday night, “so we got to enjoy him about three days. I found out this afternoon that he was going back to Stockton. And we want our guys to go up the ladder and have the opportunity to play at the next level, but I at least thought we’d have him at the start of the season.”
That opens the door for rookie Hayden Hawkey, who is on a tryout with the Mavericks and not yet under contract.
“Right now Hawkey is our guy,” Dickson said of the former Providence College standout. “He’ll be in goal against Allen and we’re all excited to see how he does. He looked good in the scrimmage. We’re happy to have him.”
Dickson said he does not yet know what the Schneider call-up means to his team.
“We’ll just have to wait and see,” Dickson said. “We can’t start the season with just one goalie.”