Following a rookie season with just as many downs as there were ups, Guelph Storm goaltender Bradley van Schubert is nothing but grateful for his start.
Steph Coratti, GuelphStorm.com
Forget trying to describe Bradley van Schubert’s rookie season in the Ontario Hockey League with one word.
A picture of a roller coaster will do the trick instead.
It took the Guelph Storm goaltender a complete month into the 2014-15 season before seeing the ice, a month that featured a lot of watching from the stands as a third option in the crease behind starter Justin Nichols and backup Matthew Mancina.
A trade sending Mancina to the Peterborough Petes would make room for Van Schubert on the bench, however, even then Van Schubert was faced with the complete learning curve of entering the OHL as a rookie netminder.
Given the nod for his first career start on Oct. 26, 2014 with the London Knights and their offensive power in town, Van Schubert was peppered with 35 shots on the game as the Storm fell 7-1 to their Midwest Division rival.
Whether viewed as a fitting right of passage, or quite simply a lesson every rookie is forced with at some point, it’s a date that even the six-foot-two, 200-pound netminder wishes he could forget sometimes.
“I don’t think I’ll ever forget my first OHL start, even though I’d like to sometimes,” Van Schubert said with a laugh. “Maybe switch it with a different game.”
His second appearance wouldn’t fair much better as three games later on Nov. 6, the 1997-born goaltender would find himself facing the Knights once again, this time in relief of Nichols.
The final would be 11-1 for the Knights. Van Schubert, allowing seven goals on 17 shots through 29:25 of play, would now be at 14 goals against in just a game and a half in the OHL.
Certainly a tough beginning, yet complaints weren’t anywhere to be found around the Barrie, Ontario native.
“The only thing I let myself take from it was that it just couldn’t get much worse at that point,” Van Schubert explained, illustrating a clearly focused mindset. “The only way from there was up.”
Up he went, but not before rounding a few corners first.
In December, Van Schubert was given his second OHL start. This time against the eventual Memorial Cup Champions, the Oshawa Generals.
The storyline changed against this powerhouse, though, with the Storm rookie stopping 42 of 45 shots in a close 3-2 loss. Van Schubert would be named the game’s first star.
About a month later, the roller coaster finally reached it’s peak as he added the first one to the W-column with a 32-save, first-star performance in a 4-2 victory over the Kitchener Rangers on Jan. 11.
“It felt amazing. It was one of the best moments in my career so far for sure,” Van Schubert said of the milestone, adding that it was a bonus with how good of a hockey game it was overall. “We were tied for awhile, and then we ended up scoring. Everybody worked hard – that made it even better.”
From there, Van Schubert didn’t look back, going on to hit a career-high five starts in a row spanning from Jan. 10-18, earning a 3-2-0-0 record with a 2.90 goals-against-average and a .921 save percentage.
Not bad for a former 13th round selection in the 2013 OHL Priority Selection – a considered late pick for any player hoping to enter the league, let alone for a goaltender vying for a spot.
Although unexpected has become a defining trait for Van Schubert, a once 12-year-old kid who’s reasoning for making the switch to the blue paint was because he thought he needed to do the job himself.
“I thought goalies on my team were bad,” Van Schubert laughed, explaining why he became a goaltender at the age of 12. “I told my Dad I could do it better, and here I am.”
From 12-year-old goaltending beginner to OHL freshman, backing down from a challenge evidently isn’t in Van Schubert’s make up.
“There were a couple times,” Van Schubert responded when asked if he ever got down on himself throughout the year. “But, I mean, you’re playing in the best league you could possibly play in – you don’t sit there and mope about not having a win or a start. If you’re good enough to even have a shot to play, that’s all you need.”
As there always is, though, there were those who helped maneuver the downs through to the highs.
“My billets were a key factor in that,” he said of who helped his adjustment the most. “There’s stuff written in the paper sometimes but the paper wouldn’t make it to the kitchen table that morning – it’s little stuff like that, that they do for you.”
Quick, and significant, credit was also thrown in the direction of Matt Smith, the Guelph Storm’s goaltending coach, who worked with Van Schubert for almost two months individually every day.
Then, of course, comes the unique and critical connection between goaltenders.
“He’d come in after the first period, and the period didn’t go so well – you’re down a few goals,” Van Schubert began on Justin Nichols. “He’s not the type to not talk to you. He would come right up and tell me what I needed to hear.”
“He taught me certain things on and off the ice,” Van Schubert continued. “He’s a great mentor.”
Praise runs on a two-way street for this duo, with Nichols having experienced much of the same beginning as a 17-year-old entering the league.
“I could see the emotion [Van Schubert] was feeling, and I just tried to emulate what Matt Murray did for me in focusing on the opportunity he has in front of him,” Nichols explained, drawing off his own experience as a rookie in Sault Ste. Marie. “If he continues to work like he has, he’s going to be something special in this league.”
With just 16 regular season games played and four appearances in the 2015 Playoffs, including 14 goals against from the offensively powered London Knights to start, a first star performance against the eventual Memorial Cup Champions, and an incredibly close 3-2 loss in Game Four to the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, it’s safe to say Van Schubert is just getting started.
When looking back on the roller coaster that was, the goaltender had nothing but appreciation for every part of his rookie season.
“Baptism by fire,” he said. “It’s the best way to start.”
Favourite player growing up: Michael Hutchinson.
Favourite hockey memory to date: My first OHL win.
Favourite sport other than hockey: Baseball.
Hobbies outside of sports: Fishing, boating… going to the cottage.
Any nickname(s): Schubby.
Favourite TV Show: Band of Brothers.
Favourite music: Country.
If a movie was made about your life, who would you want to play you in the movie: Brad Pitt.
If you could have dinner with anybody, dead or alive, who would it be: Johnny Bower.
Most embarrassing song on your iPod: Cheerleader by OMI.
One place you’d like to travel to: Netherlands.
Click below for more Storm Spotlights.