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Schneider, Tigers rolling in WHL

Calgary Flames prospect Nick Schneider has been key to the Medicine Hat Tigers success this season

by Torie Peterson @ToriePeterson / CalgaryFlames.com

Make no bones about it, the 2015-16 season wasn't exactly a walk in the park for Calgary Flames prospect Nick Schneider and the Medicine Hat Tigers.

For the first time in his Western Hockey League career, Schneider was tasked with carrying the load in net after a series of trades and injuries gave the goaltender an opportunity to take over as the Tigers' No. 1 goaltender.

After battling for and earning that spot, the coaching staff leaned heavily on the then-18-year-old. He ended up appearing in 50 games last year and faced 30-or-more shots in 30 of those outings. He posted a 21-26-1 record and nearly carried the struggling Tigers club into the postseason with his strong play.

This year, it's a different story.

The Tigers are sit atop the WHL's Central Division standings and their 30-13-1 record ranks them fourth overall in the league. 

Schneider has appeared in 37 of those 44 games and has been credited with 26 wins - a number no other WHL goalie has hit yet.

"It's been a good year," Schneider told CalgaryFlames.com. "We have a really good team this year, a great group of guys, and we're winning lots of games.

"I think personally, I had a really good start to the year. A couple weeks before Christmas didn't go as well as I would have liked but after that, I've picked it back up and am getting back to my game and having a lot of fun doing it, getting my confidence back to where it was."

Tigers assistant coach Joe Frazer has watched Schneider's progression over the past couple of years and is able to pinpoint one area of the netminder's game that has allowed him to flourish under pressure.

"I think mentally, he's capable of taking a goal that maybe you'd like to have back and turning the page on that and being ready for the next shot," Frazer noted. "He's really good focusing on what's coming next and that has allowed him to excel throughout the end of last year and this year.

"Being able to do that, it brings confidence to you and the rest of your team."

That confidence Schneider and Frazer spoke of isn't only based on the goaltender's play in the WHL.

After the Tigers had their playoff hopes dashed in a heartbreaking tiebreaker loss to the Edmonton Oil Kings last spring, Schneider hopped on a plane and headed to California to join the Stockton Heat on a tryout agreement.

In nine games in the American Hockey League last season, Schneider pieced together a 4-5-0 record and faced 30-or-more shots in six of those skates.

That cup of coffee in the AHL not only instilled a sense of awareness as to what he could expect after his junior career comes to close but also that he has the ability to play at the level.

"It's helped me a lot," Schneider explained. "Obviously getting to see what those guys are like in their regular season, how they conduct themselves and how they work on and off the ice. You can tell the work never stops.

"You see different ways to play and everyone has their own style of game. You've got to embrace your style and what got you to this point - you really see that at that next level.

"There's a lot of good goalies out there and you want to show that you belong there too."

Frazer and the Medicine Hat coaching staff have noticed a difference in their netminder since that stint in Stockton.

"Oh, that definitely gave him a lot of confidence," Frazer said. "He played well with them. Any time you can do that, it's going to give you confidence - playing against pros. He definitely took that experience and brought it back to us this year.'

"He's been able to take his game to that next level this season and it's great to see."

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