Christmas Comes Early For Snider
by Dane DeKrey/Staff Writer
GRAND FORKS, N.D. It doesn't suck to be Landon Snider.
That's because the 19-year-old freshman from Brainerd, Minn., the new third-string goaltender for North Dakota, was granted the wish every American-born hockey player wishes from the first day they tighten up their skate laces — a chance to play NCAA Division I college hockey.
Snider's opportunity couldn't have come in a more delightfully peculiar way, as the unexpected departure of UND's backup goaltender, Anthony Grieco, left the team with a void that needed filling.
"One morning I was doing homework and UND's assistant coach, Dane Jackson, called me in the middle of homework and told me about Grieco leaving, and that they were looking for a third goalie," Snider said, who was the starting goaltender for the Brainerd Warriors his junior and senior years of high school. "It's like surreal; one day I was sitting at home doing nothing, the next day I was skating with a powerhouse Division I hockey team."
And to think, Snider just about didn't go to UND.
"He [Snider] had mentioned that he had enrolled at UND kind of at the last minute and that it wasn't really his first choice of school," said Jean-Philippe Lamoureux, UND's starting goalie and Snider's new teammate and mentor. "But it's just kind of funny how things work out, you know, him being in the right place at the right time."
Snider's addition to the UND roster will be especially beneficial for Lamoureux, as it will relieve some of the drubbing he and second-string goaltender, Aaron Walksi, have faced in practice during the interim between Grieco's departure and Snider's arrival.
"He'll be an important part of the team," Lamoureux said. "When you have only two goalies you just try to moderate your shots during the week and try not to tire yourself out."
So, not having stood between the pipes since last June, and with five months of accumulated dust to shake off his pads, Snider stepped onto the ice with his new teammates, and prepared to face some of college hockey's most prolific goal scorers, the least of which include two Hobey Baker-caliber players — last year's winner, Ryan Duncan, and one of this year's favorites, T.J. Oshie.
After his first day of practice, one word stuck out in Snider's mind regarding the team's shooting ability — accuracy.
"The speed [of shots] is not much different from high school, but the accuracy overall is what gets me," Snider said. "Every shot is crossbar down, or when they deke, I don't even know how to explain it. They're so much better than whatever I expected."
Whatever Snider's expectations may be, the harsh reality is that despite his feel-good ascension from intramural obscurity to a roster spot on one of college hockey's premier programs, Snider will in all probability never see action in any capacity beyond practice. Nor will he likely don Fighting Sioux-green for more than a season, as UND already has recruit goaltender, Brad Eidsness, slated to join the team in 2008.
"I think he understands the role he's coming into, playing as a third goaltender," said head coach, Dave Hakstol. "It's not an easy role. You take a beating in practice and there's not a whole lot of rewards that come with it come game time."
But Snider doesn't care; he's too busy enjoying the best streak of luck of his life.
"Everything has been great, especially when I'm out there on the ice with the team," Snider said. "The game is so much faster from high school to college hockey. In high school hockey, there were one or two good kids on each team; here, every player was the best player on their team. It is just so, so fast, it's insane."
For Snider, the honeymoon has just begun.