Schneider, Skarek Solidifying Bridgeport Crease
December 20, 2022 – American Hockey League (AHL) – Bridgeport Islanders News Release
The Bridgeport Islanders have started the 2022-23 season off strong with a 14-8-5 record. Their goaltending tandem of veteran Cory Schneider and 2018 third rounder (72nd overall) Jakub Skarek has been a driving force.
“It’s healthy competition,” Head Coach Brent Thompson said. “Cory and Jakub are really pushing each other with their practice habits and the way they go about their business. For me, you have to have two goalies capable of getting you wins, and we have that.”
Schneider is among the league leaders so far this season, posting a 10-3-2 record with a .921 save percentage, seventh-best in the AHL, and 2.51 GAA, tied for seventh-best in the AHL. Only two goalies have more wins. Skarek has points in seven of his 12 starts this season (4-5-3) and set a new career high with 43 saves against Providence last month.
Schneider, 36, has played in 410 NHL games in his career, with his first coming in 2008 for the Vancouver Canucks and his most recent for the New York Islanders on Apr. 3, 2022 against the New Jersey Devils, though he was recalled by the Isles on emergency recall on Sunday. Having a veteran like Schneider in net is a stabilizing force for the team, according to Head Coach Brent Thompson.
“He’s been through a lot, and his maturity, how he approaches things, is outstanding,” Thompson said. “That confidence in the way he carries himself on a day-to-day is good for our team, and it’s great for (Skarek).”
Schneider ended last season with a .921 save percentage in 30 appearances, ranking fifth among all AHL goaltenders. He posted a .927 save percentage and 2.35 GAA in six playoff games last year as well. For Bridgeport, the playoff series win gave them momentum heading into the new season.
Schneider could have considered retirement after a 12-year NHL career, but the veteran goaltender said he values the opportunity to serve as a mentor in the AHL and leader to young players like Skarek.
“We had a little meeting before the year and said, ‘hey, you know, let’s expect good things out of us,'” Schneider said. “Let’s not get behind the eight ball and chase all year. We have a good team and a good group of guys. Let’s establish our expectations. Let’s go out there and make sure we take it seriously and play well, because we know we can.”
Skarek is playing his fourth season with Bridgeport, but is still just 23 years old. Skarek also got a taste of the playoffs last season, making 28 of 31 saves in a wild 7-6 double-OT loss to Charlotte. He thinks Schneider has been a key mentor for him in his adjustment to North America, both as a goaltender and personally.
“I can ask him anytime, how would you play that situation or if he thinks I played it the correct way, or in general, I can basically talk to him about anything,” Skarek said. “Even normal life stuff, because he’s American and I’m not from here. It’s always great to have him by my side, he’s a great mentor. He helps me with everything.”
In his years in Bridgeport, Skarek believes his positioning and vision have improved the most. Schneider praised Skarek’s athleticism and work ethic, and said the next step for in his development is building his consistency and mental game.
“I think for him, it’s not the results on the physical side, it’s the mental side of just staying even-keeled and not letting the bad ones get to you too badly and then not letting the good ones make you think everything’s just going well,” Schneider said. “I think he’s started to find that, and I think he’s played really well for us this year.”
Thompson said he also sees Skarek opening up more in the locker room and building confidence both on and off the ice.
“A guy like (Skarek), who’s learned a lot from Schneider, they go hand in hand together and they’re a good duo back there,” captain Seth Helgeson said. “We have all the confidence in the world with them back there. They’ve been able to bail us out a few times this year. They’ve been really, really good and effective for us, and that’s what we need. They’re the backbone of our team.”
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