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Chat transcript: Cory Schneider

May 29, 2009

Goaltender Cory Schneider of the Western Conference champion Manitoba Moose entered the AHL Chat Room to discuss the Calder Cup Finals series against Hershey, some of the things he improved on to become the AHL’s goaltender of the year as a second-year pro, some of the top moments from his amateur and professional career to date, and much more.

 What is the best part about being in the Calder Cup Finals, and did you ever think you would be here in just your second year? – Courtney from Connecticut.

 I would say the best part is just having your whole season’s work come to fruition. You work so hard during the year, do a lot of traveling, and are away from friends and family, so to meet your goals of making it to the Finals and have a chance to win a championship is the best part. I didn’t really know what to expect during my rookie year, but I got a lot better last year as a player, and obviously this year the team really loaded up with some talent both offensively and defensively, and for me it was just coming into my own and playing well all season. From the start, I think we knew we had a team that was capable of it. I certainly couldn’t have imagined it coming into last year, but this year I knew it was a real possibility.

 We played all year with high expectations, and I think a lot of people expected us to probably be here, from management to fans to ourselves. So it was pretty subdued after we won the Western Conference – we were all happy and thrilled, but I think a lot of us expected to be here and we know we have one more series to play before we can really get excited.



What can you take away from all of your title game experience at Boston College and apply it to this series? What are some of the differences? – Kevin from Boston, Mass.

I think those were great experiences for me. Obviously, we didn’t win it, but I learned how to play in front of big crowds in a do-or-die game, similar to a Game 7 potentially. Just being able to play with that kind of pressure and expectation, because we had some good teams at Boston College.

 The main difference is just being in a seven-game series. In college, you get one chance and that’s it, so if you make a mistake, that’s it. But here, even if you have an off-game, you can rebound and try to win the next four. There’s obviously a lot more work that goes into a seven-game series, but there’s also more opportunity if something goes wrong.  


You have really played well ever since about midway through your rookie season last year. Was there a bit of an adjustment period, and what types of things did you need to work on after turning pro? – Jim from Winnipeg

I think there were some major adjustments that I had to make. I think you feel like you kind of feel like you know everything, and you can keep doing what you had been doing in school, and you’re going to be successful. But I learned pretty quickly that it’s a different level and it’s better hockey here. So I think I just had to make a mental adjustment, kind of have a reality check with myself and say you need to start working harder and preparing yourself mentally better, and pay attention to the details more, and you just need to be on the ice and in games to see the situations and learn how to read them. It was a whole combination of things. I might have taken it for granted early on, but then I realized quickly that I had to be better.


Watching the Bears throughout the season, their offense is explosive with guys like Aucoin, Giroux, Bourque, and Mink. How worried are you playing a team that had four All-Star players on the team?Tyler from Lancaster, Penn.

From what we’ve seen in video and scoreboards, they might be down in a game and all of a sudden score four goals in the third to put it away. So we’re very well aware of what they’re capable of, and obviously a guy like the league MVP in Giroux will get his chances and his shots. I grew up playing with Chris Bourque, so I know what he’s capable of very easily, and Aucoin’s also a Boston guy, so I’ve skated with him. We’re going to have our hands full, but we’ve faced some pretty skilled guys along the way, and we’re just going to have to give them some special attention and make sure we don’t give them too much room out there. But you know you can only contain them for so long, so we’ll just try to minimize the damage and keep them at bay.   


How special is it to be facing a tradition-rich team like the Hershey Bears in the Calder Cup Finals? – John from Harrisburg, Penn.

It’s all kind of new to me just being my second year in the league, but they’ve made the Finals three of the last four years and clearly have had great teams over the history of the league. We played there last year during the regular season, and their fans are fantastic, they fill that building and are loud, and it’s a great place to play. Obviously they have great quality and a great tradition there. But at the same time, we’re not going to be intimidated by that or think too much about what they’ve accomplished in the past. We’re just worried about this year’s team, and it could have been anybody we’re playing – we’re just going to keep our game the same.


Has the team received any important pieces of advice from a guy like Jason Krog, who was a key part of a Calder Cup-winning team just last year in Chicago, or Mike Keane? – George from Winnipeg

Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s been great having both of them in the locker room. And you can add Mark Cullen who’s won a Calder Cup, and Nolan Baumgartner who’s won a couple of Memorial Cups. These guys have been around, and they really keep us on an even keel. Like Keane has said, not too high and not too low. You enjoy a win for about 10 minutes afterwards and then it’s on to the next game, or you feel bad for a few minutes and then move on. So they really instill a sense of calm in the locker room, so if we’re ever down or not playing well, it’s just stick to the systems, stick to the game plan, don’t get rattled. Having those guys around has been really valuable for us.


What were some of the things that you learned during your NHL stint with Vancouver earlier in the season? – Ross from Coleman, Alberta

It was a great experience. It was really exciting to get called up and have a chance to play some games. But it was similar adjustments to when I got to the American League. It’s faster and more chaotic, and you really need to be prepared. You can’t let your guard down for an instant because the puck’s coming at you and guys can cut corners. You know, I had some good starts and some bad starts. I tried to work in every single practice and game I had, and there are some things I can absolutely improve on. But at the same time, it was nice to get in there and make it to that level, and know it’s so close that if you put in that extra work, you can potentially be there for awhile.


How do you prepare and get rid of any nerves before a big game, and how do you usually shrug off a bad performance to get ready for the next one? – Danny from Winnipeg

It’s kind of in my personality. As a person, I never realty get too high or too low. I’m never overly excited about things, but I never get too down about things. I think that’s helped my make-up as a goalie. Before games, I do a lot of warm-up stuff, and I also do a lot of visualization stuff. I’ll close my eyes and sort of envision the game unfolding in my head, and just be prepared and do some breathing to relax myself. I think it’s really helped me a lot. But on the ice, as a goalie, you really need to have a short memory. You can’t worry about every goal, because guys are going to score. You’re not going to get a shutout every single game. Goals are going to go in; you just have to manage when, make sure they earn their goals, and make the big save at the right time. And you also have to have faith in your teammates that if you give up a goal, they’re going to come right back and support you.


What has been some of your greatest moments as a goaltender so far in your life?– Leighton from Wilton, Conn.

I’ve had a lot of great moments. I’ve been fortunate enough to play for Team USA in the under-18s at the World Juniors twice, and even though we didn’t win it was a thrill being able to represent my country. And obviously my time at Boston College was some of the best years of my life. I made some great friends, and we had some pretty good hockey teams and made a couple deep runs. I wouldn’t trade those three years for anything, because I really think I developed as a person and as a player. And my first NHL game was tremendously exciting and I’ll never forget that, and I think now being able to play for a championship at the professional level has got to be up there, for sure.  


Who on the team do you think has the best playoff beard? – Carol from Japan

I’d have to say Mark Cullen. His grows so high up his cheeks that he almost has to shave it down so he can see peripherals. He’s got a pretty thick one, and I’m actually pretty jealous because I’m not too strong in the facial hair department.


What do you think are the most important things to emphasize to young goaltenders between 12-15 years old in developing their skills? – Bret from Winnipeg

I’ve done some coaching myself in the past over the summers, and the one thing I take away is you have to have fun. I see a lot  of kids who really put a lot of pressure on themselves, and they almost burn themselves out just playing all the time and trying to get so much better, which is great, but at the same time you have to realize it’s a game and you have to fun. If you’re not enjoying it or it’s just causing too much stress in your life, you just need to relax and take a deep breath, and make sure it’s what you want to do. If it is what you want to do, then go work hard every day and try to get better. But if it doesn’t work, it’s not the end of the world.


Other than hockey, which sport is your favorite, and do you have a favorite team from that sport? – Mark from Winnipeg

Tough question. I played baseball all through high school, so I’m a big baseball fan and a diehard Red Sox fan. Huge Sox fan. But I think if I could have played another sport, it probably would have been football. I always loved football, but my parents would never let me play when I was younger because they didn’t want me breaking legs or losing teeth or something like that. But I always just enjoyed the athleticism and thinking that’s involved in playing football. And obviously a big Pats fan as well, just being from Boston. 


What are some things you like to do in your free time, when you’re not playing hockey? – Phil from Worcester, Mass.

You have some downtime as a hockey player. I try to keep myself busy; I hate just kind of sitting around idly, not doing anything. I do a lot of reading, especially lately, I’ve done lots of reading. On the road, it’s a great time-killer. My roommates and I last year, we all bought guitars just to try to learn that and fool around them. So I’ve actually spent a good amount of time playing that and trying to get better. Other than that, I hang around with my roommates a lot, we watch TV, go to movies, and we cook a lot at the house, which is kind of a hobby right now as well.