|In the mid-January matchup of
Cory Schneider vs. Joe Fallon, the BC netminder got
It was hyped up to be a modern day heavyweight
fight between two of the most prolific netminders that the
conference – not to mention the country – had
to offer. Granted, there were often 10 other players out
on the ice in between the two goalie gorillas, Cory Schneider
of Boston College and Joe Fallon of Vermont, but all eyes
were fixed on the men in the cages.
This story had everything a fan would want
out of such a high-profile fight. Schneider was the reigning
champ, playing in net for a team that had won the last three
Hockey East regular season championships, and he was just
a couple weeks removed from playing in a medal game at the
World Junior Championship for the United States team, a
tournament that improved his growth as a goaltender by immeasurable
Fallon, though a sophomore like Schneider,
was the so-called understudy. New to the conference, Fallon
and Vermont headed into the 2005-06 season with little respect
from the other nine teams. Everything they hoped to attain
this year would have to be done the hard way – on
the ice against the stiffest competition the world of college
hockey had to offer. But due to the play of Fallon and the
Catamounts, they had earned a great deal od respect.
Fallon’s story has been well told of
late, as his four shutouts in a six-game span gave him a
career total of 11, which vaulted him past former UVM stud
and current Boston Bruin Tim Thomas for the new all-time
school record. He hadn’t allowed a goal in more than
two games, a stretch that also broke a 35-year-old school
record when it finally came to a halt after 158:43 of play
when Stephen Gionta beat him in the second frame.
Friday was Schneider’s night. He was
on his home ice at Kelley Rink in front of more than 7,000
of his fans, and he looked absolutely immortal. Since his
return from Vancouver, he has allowed just two goals while
making 119 saves in just four games – all wins. And
after the 2-0 blanking of the Catamounts on Friday night,
he had a similarly impressive shutout streak going of 157:49.
“It turned out great that I got to play
in the World Junior Tournament,” Schneider acknowledged.
“There are some really good players out there. The
pace is really up-tempo. It’s really helped me get
on a roll and be focused. These past few games since I’ve
come back, it’s made more sense to me. I’ve
been anticipating well, and my team in front of me is playing
Eagles’ leading scorer Chris Collins
sends Schneider’s sentiments right back, though, saying
the man behind the skaters is the one leading the charge.
“I’ve never played with a goalie
as good as Cory,” Collins said. “It’s
such a comfort level, but you’ve almost got to be
careful because you think, ‘Oh yeah, Cory’s
got the breakaway; don’t worry about it.’ …
It helps us play with a lot more confidence, too. We take
more chances than we normally would. It’s nice having
Just as the viewing audience wanted, both
teams came out swinging early in the attempt to expose a
possible chink in the opponent’s armor. Fallon was
tested early on by the top-ranked offense in Hockey East,
turning away shots from two of BC’s top guns in the
first period. First, Collins, the national leader in goals
per game, entered the zone with no one but Fallon to beat,
but Collins’ attempt to fake right before switching
left to the forehand was knocked away.
Just a couple minutes later, Gionta –
this time on a short-handed breakaway – came in from
the left side and tried a similar move on the sophomore
goalie, but Fallon turned the puck away with just as similar
ease. BC coach Jerry York called both of those stops his
best two of the game, and Schneider marveled at the way
Fallon played on the big stage despite the loss.
“Fallon is a great goalie,” Schneider
said. “He’s a big kid, and he’s doing
very well. You can see why he’s putting up the numbers
he does. We got a couple lucky bounces tonight, and you’ve
got to take advantage of them to beat a kid like that.”
The Catamounts got their turn to rattle Schneider
next, but senior center Matt Syroczynski’s bid to
slam home a pointblank one-timer was quickly turned away.
It was Vermont’s next opportunity, however, that got
the Eagle faithful up and screaming. A strong pass through
the slot to Dean Strong appeared to have Schneider caught
out of position, but the sophomore stud went spread-eagle
to knock the puck away with his right leg to send both teams
into the first intermission locked in a scoreless tie.
Schneider asserted himself and gained a little
separation with the help of his friends in the second period,
though he kept his opposition off the board for yet another
20 minutes with some nice work of his own, particularly
by swiping away a high wrister from the stick of UVM leading
scorer Brady Leisenring, who was in all alone on a breakaway.
After Collins and Gionta got a little revenge
on Fallon with a pair of second-period goals, Schneider
continued to hold serve in the set. With the Cats mounting
a power-play attack, Jeff Corey fired an open angle shot
from the left slot off a wide rebound, but Schneider was
there to nonchalantly pick off the puck and quell the frenzy.
Leisenring got another shot with time winding
down in the contest while entering the zone working off
an Eagle defender. He fanned on his first bid to go five-hole
though got a second-chance shot off with Schneider sprawled
out on the ground. As he had done all night, however, he
stayed with the puck long enough to keep it out of the net
and the shutout intact – and he grinned about the
“I just made a desperation move, and
fortunately it hit me,” he said.
“He just seems to be getting better
and better,” York said. “He really benefited
from the World Juniors. He went out there and had to play
under tournament conditions. They weren’t successful
enough to win a medal, but his play was certainly successful.
He has benefited a lot from that tournament.”
Coincidentally, that tournament was held in
the city that Schneider may one day begin earning his paychecks,
as the Vancouver Canucks made him their first pick in the
2004 NHL Draft. Fallon is a prospect of another Western
Conference team, the Chicago Blackhawks, so this could turn
out to be a matchup fans can get used to for a while.
“In my opinion, they are two of the
best in Hockey East,” UVM coach Kevin Sneddon said.
“They are probably two of the best in the country.
Neither of the goals that went in on Joe were his fault.
We had poor coverage. I thought he saved us at times. Cory
played very, very well tonight. We had some opportunities,
and he just shut the door and made it pretty easy.”
The great ones usually do.