The Kansas City Mavericks were getting after it on the ice Thursday morning at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena as they prepare for today’s 7:05 p.m. season opener against Tulsa at the BOK Center.
The intensity was so high, one might think that a roster spot was up for grabs, but that wasn’t the case the team ECHL team announced its 2019-20 opening day roster, which includes one goaltender, eight defensemen and 14 forwards.
That one goaltender is rookie Hayden Hawkey, who came to camp on a tryout basis and was awarded a contract Wednesday.
“He earned it,” coach John-Scott Dickson said when asked about the young man who will be in the net tonight for the season opener. “We’re looking around for another goalie, but we feel confident with Hayden in the net.
“He’s had an outstanding camp and he put up great numbers in college. He’s athletic and he had a high hockey IQ.”
Hawkey – which is pronounced like hockey – had a 1.88 goals against average his senior year at Providence and never had an average over 2.19.
“And you can tell he’s feeling more confident and comfortable around the guys,” Dickson said. “He was throwing around a little trash talk today when he’d block a shot. I like that.”
The 24-year-old rookie is taking a realistic approach to tonight’s start as Nick Schneider, who was with the Mavericks last season and was recalled to their American Hockey League affiliate Stockton last week, will return to the team eventually.
“I’m excited about my first start and the season opener,” Hawkey said. “But I’m realistic and I know they’re going to have to bring in another goalie until Nick or someone comes back from Stockton.
“I just came into camp hoping to have a shot at making the team, and I was able to accomplish that, so I’m just taking it a day at a time.”
That low-key approach could be a bonus for the youngster who has earned the respect of his teammates.
“Hayden came into camp with the right approach, worked hard and now he’s starting opening night. Good for him,” captain Rocco Carzo said.
And as the days become weeks, Hawkey is settling into his new surroundings.
“I really like it here,” he said. “I’m feeling more comfortable around the guys on the team, I’m into a practice routine and I’m ready to go Friday. I’m treating it just like it was another game, even though it’s the opener, because I don’t want to get too high or too excited.
“But it really is exciting to play in the season opener.”
Corey Durocher, who was a standout last year in the regular season and playoffs, is also excited about the opener because the Mavericks lost a tough seven-game series to the Oilers to start the playoffs last year.
“Might as well get the first game with the big rival out of the way the first night,” Durocher said, smiling. “We have some unfinished business this season after losing in the first round (of the playoffs) to Tulsa last year.
“I really like this team and think we can make a deep playoff run.”
Durocher has been practicing with a cage on his helmet as he suffered a broken bone under his right eye in a freak accident in last Friday’s exhibition game against the Allen Americans at SEC Arena.
“I was going to the net and spun off a defender and tripped over a defenseman and their goalie and came down – face first – on the top bar of the net,” explained Durocher, who was sporting a bloodshot, red eye and badly bruised face. “I’m wearing the cage, and am playing – no problems. I can’t wait for the season to start.”