PWHL

How goalie Corinne Schroeder became PWHL New York's 'brick wall'

Schroeder is forcing her way into the conversation for one of three goaltending jobs with Canada’s senior national team, and as a contender for the PWHL's best goaltender.

With stellar start to pro career, Schroeder forcing way into Team Canada conversation

A female goaltender waves to the crowd in her goalie gear on the ice.
New York goaltender Corinne Schroeder was named player of the game after posting a shutout in the PWHL's first game on Jan. 1. (Christopher Katsarov/Canadian Press)

Amanda Alessi remembers meeting a shy 17-year-old from Manitoba ahead of the 2017 U18 women's world championship.

Alessi was a goaltending consultant for the Canadian team, and Corinne Schroeder was a nearly six-foot-tall goaltender who could get around her net quickly.

"She was quiet, very reserved," said Alessi, who was a goaltender on Canada's very first U18 team in 2008. "But kind of this like potential full package goalie that was just young and hadn't had a ton of exposure yet."

Schroeder didn't start a game at that tournament, but the staff at Hockey Canada were excited by her combination of size, mobility and calm presence.

Seven years later, 24-year-old Schroeder is forcing her way into the conversation for one of three goaltending jobs with Canada's senior national team.

She's also making an early case as a contender for the PWHL's best goaltender. Over five starts with New York, she's posted a goals against average of 1.79 while facing more shots (167) than any goalie in the league except Montreal's Ann-Renée Desbiens.

In between, Schroeder has built an impressive resumé. Over four years at Boston University, she set program records for the best goals against average (1.98) and save percentage (.929) over 91 career games.

She transferred to Quinnipiac University for her final year of college eligibility, and posted six shutouts en route to being a finalist for NCAA women's goaltender of the year.

Schroeder didn't miss a beat in her transition to the pros with the Boston Pride of the Premier Hockey Federation (PHF). Before the league shut down, Schroeder was named goaltender and rookie of the year.

WATCH l Schroeder shuts out Toronto in first PWHL game:

Corinne Schroeder shuts out Toronto, New York takes inaugural PWHL game

7 months ago
Duration 1:14
The Canadian goaltender made 29 saves in New York's 4-0 win in Toronto.

She's had a stellar start to her PWHL career, too, posting a shutout in the league's inaugural game on Jan. 1, a day she admitted was "pretty stressful." Her New York team beat Toronto 4-0 with more than 2,500 people in the stands and nearly three million more watching from home.

But Schroeder has found a way to tune out noise and rise to the challenge of the next level, whether it's moving from college to the pros or playing under the bright lights of the first PWHL game.

"We always joke about her being a brick wall, and I've seen people refer to her as that as well," New York teammate Jade Downie-Landry said.

"She really is and I think what kind of makes her unique is her focus. She's always 100 per cent in it. She doesn't do things halfway. She always wants to be the best and keep improving."

A goaltender stares ahead during a game.
Skating, athleticism and humbleness have been keys to Schroeder's success as a goalie, according to her former coach. (Frank Franklin II/The Associated Press)

On the broadcast that day, cameras showed Schroeder in the Mattamy Athletic Centre stands before they were filled, visualizing the game and the saves she would make. Juggling is also part of her pre-game routine.

"I just stuck to what I knew and kept my routine the same, just tried to soak in everything, and try to just let go of all that pressure," Schroeder said.

A small-town rink

Schroeder grew up in the middle of five children on her family's 2,000-acre farm in Elm Creek, a tiny community home to around 400 people about 50 kilometres west of Winnipeg. The family farmed grain with Schroeder's uncle and ran a chicken barn.

Schroeder's father, Robert, coached her for years and would help her get extra ice time inside the community's volunteer-run natural ice surface.

"Being a coach, being around the rink all the time, knowing how to work farm machinery, he was able to kind of do the [ice clearing] and everything like that," Schroeder said.

WATCH l New York forward Abby Roque mic'd up in warmup:

PWHL Mic'd Up: 'Did you see that sign?' New York's Abby Roque in warmup

6 months ago
Duration 1:32
Go behind the scenes of PWHL New York vs. PWHL Toronto, as CBC Sports presents Mic'd Up with American forward Abby Roque.

It wasn't until she was around 12 years old that Schroeder switched to playing in net full time, and a few years after, she started spending time in the summer working with a goaltending coach. She loved the technicality of the position and the idea that there's always room for improvement. 

She modelled her game after Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne, her favourite goaltender to watch growing up.

"I feel like he had that perfect balance between technicality as well as athleticism, and he just kind of had that beautiful hybrid style," she said.

A shutout streak

When Schroeder appeared on the college transfer portal in 2021 after a COVID-shortened season, Quinnipiac's coaches knew she'd be a big addition to their team. The coaching staff, including head coach Cassandra Turner and assistant coach Alessi, both knew Schroeder from Hockey Canada and decided to reach out.

What they got was a mature, thoughtful goalie who wanted to get better.

"She goes about her business as a professional in a very quiet, humble way, but in a way that can kind of bring others along," Alessi said.

That season, Schroeder led the team all the way to the NCAA quarterfinals. Quinnipiac lost in double overtime to eventual champion Ohio State University. Schroeder made 73 saves in the loss, sixth most in NCAA history.

Moving up to professional hockey with the Boston Pride, Schroeder had the mindset of tackling the game one save at a time. She found the pace faster than college, but she loved the challenge.

A goaltender tracks a puck during a hockey game.
Schroeder posted three consecutive shutouts to begin her career with the Boston Pride of the Premier Hockey Federation (PHF). (Boston Pride/Facebook)

She made the first save that came her way in her debut with the Pride. And then she stopped the next 111 pucks that came her way, too, putting together a shutout streak that lasted three games.

Her skating and athleticism make her stand out, according to Alessi.

Usually, smaller goalies are better skaters because they need to be in the right place to make saves. But Schroeder has both size and mobility. 

"Her post play is something that she's put so much time and effort into, and she's very strong down there," Alessi said.

"I think she reads the game pretty well too. Just her ability to know where the next most dangerous player is and turn that into a controlled save, where for a lot of other goalies maybe it's like a very big desperation, scrambly save."

Good teammates

At the PWHL's first draft last September, New York GM Pascal Daoust told reporters that both goaltenders he drafted, Schroeder and rookie Abbey Levy, have good size and quick feet. But he was just as happy to hear they're great teammates.

Schroeder said she doesn't see herself and Levy, who has started three of New York's games, as competing against each other. She sees them as a team. 

A woman and a man hold a hockey stick and smile on a stage.
Schroeder poses with New York head coach Howie Draper at the PWHL's inaugural draft in September 2023. (Heather Pollock/PWHL)

She said they've got different ways to focus before a game, with Schroeder laser focused on her routine and Levy more likely to be found playing soccer to warm up. But she believes they complement each other well. 

"We're going to have to work together because no goalie's going to be able to play every game this season without coming away with an injury or something unfortunate like that," Schroeder said.

An Olympic dream

Schroeder said the play in the PWHL has been faster and more physical than the PHF. But she continues to rise to the challenge, making good on that potential Alessi saw when she was a teenager.

"She's showing the hockey world that she's legit and that she's there to stay," Alessi said.

Later this month, Schroeder will face another challenge. For the second time, she's been named to the Canadian roster at the Rivalry Series.

WATCH l Behind the scenes with PWHL Ottawa's equipment manager:

Behind the scenes with a PWHL equipment manager

6 months ago
Duration 2:05
The Professional Women's Hockey League has given hockey fans a chance to see women performing at the highest level of professional sport. It's also an opportunity for some to live their dream of working in the big leagues and helping players focus on being their best. Rachel Gagnon, the equipment manager for PWHL Ottawa, brought CBC News behind the scenes to see how it's done.

Schroeder has never started a game in the red and white, but three games scheduled over five days could see her get that chance.

It's the next step in a dream she's had since she was about four years old: to play for Canada at the Olympics.

"Hopefully in the future that's in the cards," Schroeder said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karissa Donkin is a journalist in CBC's Atlantic investigative unit. You can reach her at karissa.donkin@cbc.ca.

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