By Phil Stacey
There are people throughout the world of pro hockey who feel that Cory Schneider is the best goalie in the world not currently playing in the National Hockey League.
Apparently, so do the decision makers in the American Hockey League.
Schneider, the 23-year-old Marblehead native and goaltender for the Manitoba Moose, has been named the 2009 Aldege "Baz" Bastien Memorial Award winner. The award is given to the AHL's outstanding goalie as voted on by the league's players, coaches and members of the media in each of the league's 29 cities.
A First Team AHL all-star, Schneider has gone 28-9-1 in 39 games thus far for the Moose. He leads the league in both goals-against average (1.99 GAA) and save percentage (.929) and has posted five shutouts.
The former Phillips Andover Academy and Boston College standout has set two Manitoba team records this season. He compiled the longest winning streak for a Moose goaltender in history (10 games), and also has set a new single-season mark for wins in a season (28).
With two games remaining in the regular season for Manitoba, Schneider is also a lock to break the team records for best goals-against average and save percentage in a single season in team history, too. (Wade Flaherty holds both of the current records at 2.17 GAA and .922 save pct., respectively). Schneider also has a chance to either tie or break the record for most shutouts in a season with the Moose; Flaherty had six during the 2005-06 campaign.
A former first round draft pick of the Vancouver Canucks who made his NHL debut with them earlier this season, Schneider has allowed three or fewer goals in 36 of his 39 games with the Moose in 2008-09. He was named the Reebok X-Pulse /AHL Goaltender of the Month for November and was selected the RBK/AHL Player of the Week for the week ending March 29.
In two seasons with Manitoba, Schneider is 49-21-3 overall with eight shutouts.
Schneider and the Moose sit atop the AHL's North Division of the Western Conference with 104 points (a 49-23-0-6 record) heading into tonight's road game against the Toronto Marlies. They wrap up the regular season tomorrow in Cleveland against the Lake Erie Monsters. Manitoba is one point behind the Milwaukee Admirals (105 pts.) for the best mark in the Western Conference, but have one game in hand.
Given out each year since it was first awarded in 1984, the Aldege "Baz" Bastien Memorial Award honors former Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Baz Bastien, who played four seasons in goal with the AHL's Pittsburgh Hornets (1945-49) before suffering a career-ending eye injury. Bastien would go on to serve as head coach and general manager of the Hornets, leading them to the 1967 Calder Cup championship.
Other AHL netminders who have won the Bastien Memorial Award include such notables as Jon Casey (1985), Felix Potvin (1992), Manny Legace (1996), Martin Biron (1999), Dwayne Roloson (2001), Jason LaBarbera (2004 and 2007), Ryan Miller (2005), Dany Sabourin (2006) and Michael Leighton (2008).