Mavericks goalie Mason McDonald has an NHL Plan

Mavericks Mason McDonald

Most of us never get the opportunity to experience what Mason McDonald faces several times a game, and even more times in practice.

As the Kansas City Mavericks goalie, McDonald faces opponents firing slap shots, traveling more than 100 miles per hour, at his face, ribs, knees or other body parts.

And he loves it.

“It’s definitely not as easy as it looks in the stands,” he said. “I’m taking pucks off the head in practice every day. I get pucks in the ribs. That doesn’t feel too good. Really it’s about going out and giving the best effort every day, and having fun while you do it.”

McDonald, 21, said the games are more fun—and less painful—than practices. Part of the reason is there’s only one puck on the ice during games. In practice, it’s rapid-fire action.

“The only time I’m terrified of the puck is in practice when the guys are firing off one-timers one after another,” he said. “Practice is the most vulnerable time for goalies. You get pucks that roll up a guy’s stick, and those catch you in the collarbone. You don’t really get too many stingers in games, because you don’t face that many shots.”

Mason McDonald has a routine that goes through his mind as soon as the puck crosses the blue line.

“As the player approaches with the puck, I look to see if there are any other guys with him. I turn my head to check on them and decide if they’re a threat at the start. As the guy with the puck gets closer, I’m looking at the blades of his stick and at what angle he’s coming. Once he’s close enough, I’m ready for the shot. If he shoots, I’m looking to make the save. If he passes, I slide over and pick up the other guy to make a save on him.”

Mason McDonald is in his first year with the Mavericks. He’s part of Calgary Flames farm system. He knows there’s a long road ahead of him to get to the National Hockey League.

“There’s quite a mountain to climb,” McDonald says. “I’m doing my best to climb up that mountain. It’s about focusing on myself and not worrying about the other stuff, how many guys are ahead of me and what’s going on around me.”

It’s a mountain others think Mason McDonald can climb.

“Wherever he ends up, it’s just playing his game and being the best goalie at the level he is at,” said Calgary goaltending coach Jordan Sigalet of McDonald. “He’s a mentally strong kid so he’s always been a guy who worries about himself and not what’s going on around him, who we’re drafting or who is playing where.

“It’s about proving what he can do at whatever level it is, and just continually proving himself to keep moving up on the depth chart.”

Mason McDonald doesn’t like to scout himself, but he does know where he needs improvement.

“I’m pretty good at moving up and down,” he said. “The five-hole (between the goalie’s legs) is an area that I’ve really worked hard on the last couple of years, having my stick in position to not allow some of those goals to go in. I think I’ve gotten much better in that area. Top-shelf (above the shoulders on either side) is where every shooter tries to score nowadays. I think I’m pretty good at taking that away.

“The area right above the pads is a pretty tough spot. Having my hands in the right position as the shooter comes in is something I’ve tried to work on. Working on low-to-high is something that every goalie has to work on. Finding the puck through traffic is always difficult, battling through screens and finding the puck when you can’t see it.”

Calgary general manager Brad Treliving believes McDonald has what it takes to play in the NHL.

“He’s still very much a good prospect for us,” Treliving said. “What I always say to the guys is these things are a marathon, not a sprint, and there’s going to be a lot of noise. Especially when you’re in a Canadian market, there’s a lot of noise around you.

“When they say you’re great, it’s probably not true. And when they say you’re dead and buried, that ain’t true either.”

McDonald’s strength is his quickness. The puck moves quickly, so goalies have to be on their toes, moving side to side. Those who are not quick enough to get in position to make a save are leaving themselves at a disadvantage.

“You’re always scanning the ice, looking for guys,” McDonald said. “When the other team comes on a rush, you have to have your head on a swivel. If they have the puck down low, you have to be ready up high as well. It’s really a matter of staying focused and making sure you have your eyes open to dangerous threats at all times.”

Mason McDonald is focused on getting better in the ECHL. He knows that he must impress his coaches and those higher up the system before he can advance.

“You can’t focus on starting in the NHL,” he said. “You have to focus on the next step in front of you. There are stepping stones. First I have to solidify myself in this league. Once that happens, I’ll have to figure out the next step. It’s all about trusting the process.”

With that attitude, he’s enjoying playing for the Mavericks in Independence.

“We’ve got a pretty good team. We have some injuries right now, but a few of the guys are coming back and getting healthy. When everybody gets back we’ll get on a roll.

“Kansas City is a great city. I’ve never lived in a big city like Kansas City before. I grew up in Halifax, Nova Scotia. It’s medium-sized, I guess.

“Kansas City is pretty exciting. There are lots of things to do. The rink is really nice. Everybody here has been really nice to me.”

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Article by David Smale

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