Who does not love a good comeback story?
On Sunday, 36-year old netminder Cory Schneider turned aside 27 of 30 shots in his first NHL game in over two seasons as the New York Islanders defeated his former team, the New Jersey Devils, by a slim 4-3 margin.
The win marked the Islanders fourth win in a row, and as we waited for the postgame media availability, we could hear cheering from the New York Islanders dressing room as they celebrated not only the win but Cory Schnieder’s achievement.
“We’re happy for Schneids. That’s a cool moment,” Kyle Palmieri said. “And we all know how hard he’s worked and how good of a teammate he’s been over the years, so it’s just a lot of excitement for him, and we’re just gonna keep this thing rolling.”
After sustaining a hip injury back in 2018, Cory Schneider’s career was never the same. Once an elite netminder in the NHL, the injury took his mobility away, and his play suffered. He lost his starting job in New Jersey and eventually lost his spot on the team after being bought out back in Oct. of 2020.
But what Cory Schneider did not lose was his drive and determination to get back to the NHL.
New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello, who was at the helm in New Jersey when Schneider was acquired, signed the veteran netminder to a one-year deal as the third-string goaltender back before the beginning of the 2020-21 season.
Schneider did not play much in the AHL in 2020-21, as he sat on the taxi squad for the season. After the season, the Islanders brought him back on another one-year deal.
This season, Schneider split time with Jakub Skarek in the AHL, but Schneider struggled early on before finding his game after the calendar turned over to 2022.
With Ilya Sorokin out with an upper-body injury and Semyon Varlamov having started the last three games, including both games of a back-to-back, New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz decided to give Schneider the start.
And for that, Schneider was very thankful.
“I’m just grateful for the opportunity,” Schneider said. “You just don’t know after last year, and you’re not sure where your future is in your career at that point and if you ever get another opportunity.”
Schneider had a few people to thank on his journey back.
“On a personal note, you know (I want to) thank my wife, my kids for pushing me and encouraging me to keep going and to get me to this point. Obviously, the Islanders for bringing me on board and bringing me in the fold and giving me this opportunity,” Schneider said.
“So again, you know, it’s, it’s easy to take the league for granted when you’re young, and you’re playing a lot, and things can change quickly, as we all know, in life in general, not just in hockey, so always be grateful for the chances you get.”
Last season, Cory Schneider dealt with a family tragedy, the passing of his nephew. Schneider took a moment to speak about his nephew after the win:
“You guys might know a year ago I lost my nephew to the house fire and he was a huge hockey fan. Huge, huge fan of me and the Devils and then the Islanders. I’d like to think he was here tonight helping me out because you know, I had a few bounces, few breaks that went my way and I know he would love to have been here,” Schneider said.
“Some of his brothers were here and their stepdad so that was a really nice feeling to have them here as well.”
As for how he thought he played in the win, Schneider felt good.
“Pretty good. I thought we did a great job, not letting them get going and transitioning off the rush, things like that,” Schneider said. “(I) had to make a few saves, but you know, they got the one at the end of the second on a nice tip and gave them some life. We knew they were going to push start the third, and they had a few good looks, (I) had to make some saves. That always helps to start the period with a few big saves and settle you into the game…I wasn’t overthinking the goals that went in.”
“So you know, I wasn’t overthinking the goals that went in. A couple of them were nice plays and you know, it’s going to happen. But I was more focused on just trying to get a win and rewarding these guys for everything they’ve done for me so yeah, overall, I feel pretty good.”
Schneider’s teammates were ecstatic for him as they understood how long of a road back it was.
“It’s amazing,” teammate Jean-Gabriel Pageau said. “A couple years, I think, to come back here in Jersey to win it. Couldn’t be more happy.”
“He’s an amazing teammate to everyone. He’s nice with everyone. He brings always a smile to the rink. Day in and day out he competes. We couldn’t ask for more.”
His former teammate in New Jersey and current teammate Kyle Palmieri reflected on watching Schneider deal with his injury.
“It’s huge. Obviously, I’ve been his teammate going back a long time now. And he’s just he’s such an awesome guy. You watch him through the good times and the bad times, and he comes in with a smile on his face and works hard,” Palmieri said. “It’s been a tough road back for him. Going back to his surgery and the things he struggled with there, but it’s awesome to get the win for him tonight, especially in this building against this team.”
New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz was very happy for his netminder.
‘I’m really happy for Schneider, really happy…The guys were really happy for him,” Trotz said. “Obviously he’s going through a lot and obviously, a former Devil.
Sunday was a night that Cory Schneider and his team will never forget. It’s one of those stories in sports that is just bigger than the game itself.
The passion, drive, emotion, commitment, and will by Cory Schneider to overcome the obstacles he did to get back and get the win was an inspiring story of perseverance.