Nick Schneider has been a professional goaltender for just two years, but the Kansas City Mavericks starter has never been so grateful to play as he was last Saturday against the visiting Wichita Thunder.
Schneider had been in goal the previous night in a 7-3 loss to the rival Thunder, and it was all he could think about.
"I think it goes without saying that none of us were very happy with the end result of Friday night," Schneider said after a Tuesday morning practice session at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena.
"I haven't been a pro for that long, but I was never happier to get back out on the ice the next night. I have a lot of confidence in myself and my teammates and we just played a bad game Friday – bad hops, bad goals, some good goals. It just all came together for Wichita and not for us.
"So it was important to me and all the guys to get back on the ice, and I'm proud of the way we responded."
In front of an appreciative crowd, Jack Walker scored just 1:20 into the first overtime period of the season to lift the Mavericks to a hardfought 3-2 victory.
"You saw the real Mavericks Saturday night," said Schneider, who is 3-3 with a 3.65 goals against average this season. "The worst thing about the way we played Friday was disappointing our fans, and we have the best fans in the league.
“After that loss Friday everyone was so encouraging. And Ron, the usher who opens the door to let us back in the locker room, was great. He's telling us, 'It's going to be OK, you're going to get them Saturday!' and he was right.
"And when we won Saturday, I think Ron and our fans were as happy as we were."
Schneider was sporting a Calgary Flames cap following practice Tuesday and the 21-year-old is dreaming of one day playing in the National Hockey League.
"I love playing in front of our fans, and the Mavericks organization is so classy," said Schneider, who started the season in the American Hockey League when the Stockton Heat had an injured goalie on its roster. "But like every guy on this team, my goal is to play in the AHL and make it to the NHL, and I'm going to work so hard that hopefully that dream becomes a reality."
That's an approach that appeals to coach John-Scott Dickson, who has lost many of his top prospects as they punch their ticket to Stockton or another AHL team.
"We are going to enjoy Nick while he's down here, because he is such a great talent that we're sure he'll be in Stockton one day," Dickson said. "He's really athletic and has a high hockey IQ. I was really impressed the way he bounced back after that loss Friday night. You could tell he was ready to get back in goal and he – and his teammates – responded with one of our best performances of the season."
The Mavericks take a 3-6-0-0 record into a weekend series against the Utah Grizzlies that is extra special for the young fan favorite.
"My parents are coming to watch me play for the first time as a pro," said Schneider, a Leduc, Alberta, native who signed with the Flames as an undrafted free agent. "It's going to be a great weekend – two games at home with our fans and my parents. I can't wait."