By Dan St. Pierre, Bruins Daily
With the 26th overall selection in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, the Vancouver Canucks selected goaltender Cory Schneider out of Phillips Academy Preparatory School in Andover, Massachusetts.
After years serving as backup to Roberto Luongo, Boston College’s career leader in shutouts returns to the TD Garden as a New Jersey Devil for the first time as a bonafide No. 1 goaltender since his final collegiate season at “The Heights” in 2007.
After spending his first three professional seasons with Vancouver’s minor league AHL affiliate in Manitoba, Schneider spent the next three seasons honing his craft as Luongo’s backup.
In more than 98 regular season appearances with the Canucks, Schneider went 55-26-8 with a 2.20 goals against average and .927 save percentage, including nine shutouts. In ten career playoff appearances, including a couple on Garden ice during the 2011 Cup Final, Schneider was 1-4 with a 2.59 GAA and .929 SV%.
“I will always be grateful for the opportunity I received in Vancouver and will look back at my time there fondly. I grew up and became the player I am in their organization, so that means a lot to me,” noted Schneider about his time up north. “It is a unique city and a unique hockey market that was a lot of fun to play in. Getting a chance to play in a Stanley Cup Final game, even though it was a blowout, is something I will never forget. You never know when or if you might get that opportunity again.”
Schneider put up the type of numbers that land you in the conversation as a top-flight NHL goaltender, but not in the eyes of former Canucks GM Mike Gillis. As the first of a series of questionable managerial decisions that later resulted in his firing, Gillis traded Schneider to the New Jersey Devils during the 2013 NHL Entry Draft for the Devils’ ninth-overall draft selection.
“I actually found out by watching the draft live,” Schneider recalled. “I received a text from a friend in the media about a minute before the trade was announced, asking if I had heard anything about me going to New Jersey. I said no, but literally watched Gary Bettman announce the trade moments later.”
With the move to New Jersey, the former Marbleheader and BC Eagle found himself in a familiar goaltending situation.
Stealing the job away from a decorated goaltender like Luongo is a daunting task in it’s own right. But taking starts away from future Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur, whose played the entirety of his career with the same franchise, is entirely different.
But that’s what the 28-year-old North Shore native did in his first full season with the Devils. In 45 appearances for New Jersey last season, Schneider went 16-15-2 with a 1.97 GAA and .921 SV%, including three shutouts.
As Brodeur started the 2014 NHL season unemployed, Devils GM Lou Lamoriello vested his confidence – and seemingly the organization’s future – in Schneider by signing him to a seven-year, $42 million contract extension that officially kicks in next season.
Finally, after four full professional seasons under his belt, Schneider can lay claim to the title of No. 1 goaltender.
“Coming in to this season as the undisputed number one was an exciting and challenging opportunity for me,” Schneider said about finally being the top guy between the Devils’ pipes. “I am still learning how to play on a more regular basis, but this is the opportunity I have worked for my whole career. It is nice knowing that if you have an off game or night, you will get the opportunity to jump back in the next game and work through it. However you need to be at your best to give your team a chance to win each night.”
After a hot start to begin the season, Schneider has dealt with some adversity of late, going winless in his last three starts while allowing eight goals. Overall, Schneider has a 6-5-2 record with a 2.91 GAA and a save percentage of .906.
“In order to succeed and make it to the highest levels, you need an unwavering confidence in your game. Not arrogance or cockiness, but confidence,” added Schneider. “I truly feel that I can and should make every save in every game, so when I feel I am not playing up to my standard, I’m not afraid to point the finger at myself.”
Tonight, the young goaltender looks to get his season back on track in an arena and region of the country that’s been so special to him and his family.
“My wife and I both come from the Boston area, so we reside in Boston during the summers,” Schneider stated. “We have been living in the North End the past few years but will be moving to Charlestown for the upcoming summer. It’s always great to come home and see friends and family; its very grounding and familiar for the both of us.”
From his freshman year at Marblehead High School to his three years at Phillips Academy and his three years at Boston College, Schneider isn’t short on drawing memories from his New England playing days.
“Playing in two Frozen Fours and two National Championship games [with Boston College] were definitely highlights,” Schneider reminisced. “Memories from Andover [Phillips Academy] include playing against Avon [and Jonathan Quick] in the playoffs, and playing one of the first games in our brand new arena, only to have the boards break, then moving down to the old arena to finish the game.”
Making his first appearance in Boston since January 7, 2012, Schneider hopes that Monday night will forever represent his first win as a Devil against the Bruins.