Mavericks' new goalie has been on coach's radar for years

By Bill Althaus
Kansas City Mavericks goalie Justin Kapelmaster was a nominee for the Hobey Baker Award, given annually to the top collegiate hockey player, in his senior season at Robert Morris University.

Kansas City Mavericks coach Tad O’Had and rookie goaltender Justin Kapelmaster share a unique bond as they prepare to work together this upcoming ECHL season.

Kapelmaster has been on the rookie coach’s radar since he was a standout in junior hockey in Florida while O’Had was a part of the Florida Everblades ECHL hockey team. The Mavericks announced the goalie’s signing Tuesday.

“I’m so excited to be on Tad’s team, and I can’t wait to meet the fans, see the arena and do all I can to help bring a championship to the Kansas City Mavericks,” Kapelmaster said.

O’Had lavished praise on the new goaltender.

“Justin is the goalie we’ve wanted, the goalie we believe can be a difference maker with this team,” the new coach and director of hockey operations said.

“I just got a text from (Mavericks forward) Loren Ulett, who played junior hockey with Justin and he said, ‘The kid is a competitor. I’m so excited to play with him this season.’”

Kapelmaster, a 6-foot-1, 216-pounder from Coral Springs, Fla., joins Kansas City after finishing his collegiate career at Robert Morris University. Last season, he posted a .930 save percentage, 2.48 goals-against average and two shutouts for the Colonials to go with a 12-14-3 win-loss record. His save percentage, goals-against average and saves per game (30.4) are all school records.

“He is the epitome of a gamer,” O’Had said, “He is an intense competitor with great athleticism and has a true knack to shine in pressure situations. He is coming off a stellar senior season at RMU and we are looking forward to a smooth transition to the pro game. We strongly feel he has a bright future.” 

Kapelmaster, 24, transferred to Robert Morris after three seasons with Ferris State University, where he posted a .916 save percentage and a 2.84 goals-against average over 48 appearances (45 starts). 

“I have dreamed about playing professional hockey, and this is my start,” Kapelmaster said. “Tad is a winner, a proven winner. And that is one reason I am so excited about playing for the Mavericks.

“I know they had a down year last year, and that is another reason I am so excited about being a part of Tad’s first year in Kansas City and the excitement he is going to bring.”

While in college, Kapelmaster was a nominee for the Hobey Baker Award, given annually to the top NCAA men's hockey player.

“We’re all so excited to have Justin be a part of our team,” the coach added. “So oftentimes you have to wait for your affiliate to send you a goalie, and we are so fortunate to sign Justin.

Kapelmaster said he’s looking forward to being part of the community.

“I can’t wait to get out in the community, to meet our fans, to sample all the great barbecue and other food around Kansas City,” he said. “That’s one of the biggest benefits of playing hockey. I’ve played in Florida, New York, Texas – all over – and I love to take in the atmosphere, sample the food and meet the people.”

Mavericks re-sign Schmalz 

The Mavericks announced Wednesday they have re-signed forward Matt Schmalz. 

Schmalz, a big-bodied 6-foot-6, 225-pound forward from Dunnville, Ontario, was a bright spot for the Mavericks last season after they acquired him from the Indy Fuel. 

In 20 games with the Mavs, Schmalz compiled 14 points on six goals and eight assists. For the season, Schmalz had 29 points on 12 goals and 17 assists in 42 games with Kansas City, Indy and Worcester. In 149 career ECHL games, Schmalz has 91 points on 44 goals and 47 assists.

“He can be a thoroughbred in the ECHL,” O’Had said, “We are expecting big things from him this season. He’s got a high hockey IQ, deadly shot and can be a threat on the ice at all times.”

Schmalz was a fifth-round pick (No. 134 overall) in the 2015 NHL Draft by the Los Angeles Kings. In three games with the AHL’s Ontario Reign in 2016, Schmalz had a goal and an assist.